In late August, the Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control’s so-called “eviction moratorium.” The justices ruled that the federal agency did not have the legal authority to unilaterally extend a prohibition on the eviction of non-paying tenants in many circumstances. This was a win for both the rule of law and for a rental market destroyed by the order—but the victory could prove short-lived, if a new coalition of progressive lawmakers gets its way.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Cori Bush, progressive Democrats, just co-sponsored legislation to revive the eviction moratorium: the “Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021.”
Their bill would explicitly give the CDC the authority to re-enact the moratorium and compel it to do so. This new moratorium would potentially go even further, applying automatically to all rentals without tenants applying, as previously required. So, too, it would remain in place until 60 days beyond the “conclusion of the public health emergency.”
“This pandemic isn’t over, and we have to do everything we can to protect renters from the harm and trauma of needless eviction, which upends the lives of those struggling to get back on their feet,” Warren said in a statement. “Pushing hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes will only exacerbate this public health crisis, and cause economic harm to families, their communities, and our overall recovery.”
The pandemic isn’t over. Pushing hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes will only make it worse. @CoriBush and I have a plan to make sure our government can protect public health by preventing evictions.https://t.co/p5ZWNeKJ3W— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) September 20, 2021
I know the pain of coming home to an eviction notice on the door.— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) September 21, 2021
I refuse to sit by and let millions face eviction after the right wing Supreme Court blocked the moratorium.@EWarren and I are introducing the Keeping Renters Safe Act to reinstate the eviction moratorium.
While Bush and Warren’s compassion for hypothetical struggling renters is commendable, the alleged ongoing pandemic-fueled eviction crisis their law responds to does not, in fact, exist. An internal report from the Biden administration even found that the financial situation of renters actually improved, on average, during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccines are available at no cost to almost all Americans who want them, and more than 10 million unfilled job openings are waiting for anyone seeking work.
The eviction moratorium was always an unjustifiable overreach, but it has absolutely zero legitimate justification left at this point. If revived, though, it would have drastic consequences.
In stark contrast to progressive misconceptions, many landlords and property owners are not “rich” or members of “the 1%.” In reality, the eviction moratorium bankrupted and devastated countless working-and-middle-class landlords. Yet it wasn’t just hurting landlords; it was blowing up the rental market on both ends.
In response to the moratorium, which deprived them of any way to enforce rent collection, landlords were responding by leaving units empty and off the market, requiring 6 months rent upfront, raising rent, and selling off their properties. They’re only now finally regaining their feet with the crushing weight of the moratorium lifted. Reviving it would once again deliver a gut punch to landlords and devastate the supply of rental housing— increasing rent prices, fueling the housing shortage, and ultimately leaving more people unhoused.
If Elizabeth Warren, Cori Bush, and other progressive lawmakers really want to make housing more affordable, bringing back the eviction moratorium is the last thing they ought to pursue. Only getting the government out of the way and letting the housing market recover can get us out of this mess.
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