Housing Policy

The CDC Keeps Extending Its Illegal Eviction Ban

The agency will be extending its controversial eviction moratorium through the end of June.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is extending its controversial eviction moratorium, which was set to expire Wednesday, through the end of June.

The order, signed by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, prevents tenants earning up to $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers) from being evicted for non-payment of rent, provided they sign written declarations saying, among other things, that they've lost income or had unexpected medical bills, that they have made every effort to acquire government assistance, and that their eviction could compel them to move into a homeless shelter or other crowded shared living space.

The order was first imposed under the Trump administration, extended by Congress in late December, and renewed again by the Biden administration in January.

Renters can still be evicted under the CDC order for engaging in on-premises criminal activity, for threatening the health and safety of other residents, for damaging the property, for violating building codes, or for violating lease terms other than not paying rent.

Through each extension, the moratorium's specifics have remained largely unchanged from the Trump administration's initial version. That has aggravated some housing advocates who, while supportive of the policy, would like to see it expanded to cover more types of evictions and enforced more robustly.

"While the Biden administration is well aware of the shortcomings in the moratorium order that allow some evictions to proceed during the pandemic, the CDC director did not correct them," declared the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). "She simply extended President Trump's original order, leaving the loopholes and flaws in place, a disappointing decision that will result in more harmful evictions during the pandemic."

On the other side of the issue, landlords are dismayed at a moratorium that prevents them from reclaiming their property from nonpaying tenants.

"My clients are now in a position where we've had the eviction moratorium since September. It will go through June at least, and could be extended again," says Caleb Kruckenberg, a lawyer at the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), which is suing the CDC on behalf of several property owners. "For some of my clients, it will be 18 months since they've had tenants who pay rent. It was unsustainable from the beginning."

The CDC has justified its eviction ban by pointing to public health rules that say the agency can take measures "reasonably necessary" to prevent the interstate spread of communicable disease.

Because evicted tenants might move into crowded living arrangements, the agency argues, a moratorium is needed to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. Walensky's order stresses that the eviction moratorium remains necessary in spite of falling deaths and the rollout of vaccines.

"It is important to note that despite higher rates of vaccine coverage, the simultaneous roll-back of community mitigation efforts may continue to expose vulnerable populations, such as those targeted in this Order, to higher-than average COVID-19 rates," it says.

"Every time now the CDC has extended it, it has the feeling of just making excuses. Yes, infection rates are down. Yes, people are being vaccinated. Yet for some inexplicable reason we have to ruin the livelihood of property owners," says Kruckenberg.

Two separate studies have found that state-level eviction moratoriums have helped suppress COVID-19 infections and deaths while in effect. But neither of those studies measure actual evictions or levels of economic or social activity. That leaves open the possibility that eviction moratoriums are being imposed in places where people are already taking more precautions and are being lifted in states where people are less cautious, and it's that difference in behavior that's responsible for higher levels of transmission and death.

The CDC's new order says that mass evictions would "inevitably" occur if the moratorium is lifted. One commonly cited estimate from last summer put the number of tenants at risk of eviction at 40 million. A recent Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey found 8.3 million Americans were behind on their rent, and about 17 percent of those people said they were "very likely" to be evicted.

"I think that's like using the number of drivers to say how many people are at risk of dying in a car accident," says Salim Furth, a housing researcher at George Mason University's Mercatus Center. "Yes, everyone who gets in a car is at risk of an accident, but that doesn't give you any sense of the number of people who will actually die in a car accident today."

Despite ubiquitous warnings over the past year about a coming wave of evictions, the actual number that have taken place during windows where no moratoriums have been in effect has been lower than average almost everywhere.

The difficulty of finding a new, reliable tenant when so many people are out of work means landlords have little to gain from evicting previously good tenants who've fallen behind on rent during the pandemic, says Furth.

An analysis published today by the rental listing website Zillow found that actual evictions have come in far below predicted evictions in states where data are available.

The approval of $46.55 billion in rental assistance during the pandemic would, one would think, lessen the risk of eviction for renters behind on their bills even more.

So far, courts have been split on the legality of the CDC's eviction moratorium.

Three U.S. district courts—in Tennessee, Ohio, and Texas—have rejected the CDC's power grab in ruling that the agency's moratorium illegal. The Tennessee and Ohio decisions argue the agency went beyond the power given to it by Congress in banning evictions. The U.S. district court decision in Texas went further by saying that not even Congress had the power to impose an interstate eviction moratorium.

Two other district courts—one in Louisiana, the other in Georgia in the case brought by NCLA—have upheld the CDC's eviction ban.

Despite a handful of district-level rulings striking down the moratorium, the CDC's order is still enforceable in most of the country, says Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University and contributor to The Volokh Conspiracy (which is hosted by Reason).

"None of the three decisions striking it down have issued a nationwide injunction, so all of them apply probably only to the parties in their case, and possibly they'll apply to other cases located in those districts," he tells Reason. "The order does remain enforceable throughout the country unless and until there is some kind of nationwide injunction or ruling of the Supreme Court."

The Biden administration's extension of the order ensures the legal controversy will continue well into the summer.

Bonus video: the victims of New York's eviction moratorium.

NEXT: Basic Income Programs in Marin County and Oakland Exclude White People. Is That Legal?

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  1. Health care is a right.
    Income is a right.
    Housing is a right.

    A “right” in that you are guaranteed these things and to not have to pay for, or earn, them.

    1. And $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers) are poverty wages. Well, the way we’re going it will be soon.

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    2. Just another signpost on our way down the garbage chute of civilization. Hopefully, the morons who expect this, and the whores who promise it will be leading the body count as this society collapses and stupidity begins to thin the herd. Our main goal will be to try to stay away from the population centers as they implode.

      1. “Our main goal will be to try to stay away from the population centers as they implode.”

        Kurt Schlichter has written a series of novels along this line. Sadly, they may well be prescient.

        1. Just checked it out, looks like a fun read.

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    4. The CDC Keeps Extending Its Illegal Eviction Ban.The agency will be extending its controversial eviction moratorium through the end of June………….MORE DETAIL.

  2. How long until the moratorium becomes permanent? Won’t there always be some kind of health risk they can identify?

    1. Of course; as we continue to drift [propel] toward a [ought to be] risk free society, all risks become unacceptable, and provide a crisis for justification.

    2. Step 1. You can’t charge rent for people who make less than $100k.
      Step 2. No one will rent to anyone with an income below $120k.
      Step 3. You have to rent to anyone regardless of income.
      Step 4. No one offers property for rent. Period.
      Step 5. Comrade Jamal and Comrade Cletus knock on your door to tell you that your property has been assigned to The People and six drug addicts, mentally disturbed homeless people, and/or college kids will be assigned to live with you.
      Step 6. Your resistance to Step 5 has landed you on a list of Unpersons. Your property and employment are forfeit now please go live on the street and if you are found worshipping at the shrine often enough you may get assigned a home for The People a la Step 5.

      1. If you’re in New England check out the old Chinese house in the Peabody Essex Museum. http://yinyutang.pem.org/faqs.html It is literally a 200 year old Chinese house, moved to Massachusetts from China. The house belonged to a family in Anhui province. After the revolution the communists said it is the people’s house and assigned strangers to live with the family. Communist lesson aside, I found the house worth a visit.

  3. I feel terrible for landlords who are getting crushed, and for business owners facing bankruptcy and for workers spending all their retirement savings, and for kids stuck at home all day. But the fact is, most of the destruction was unnecessary and could have been greatly mitigated if the victims had spent their time off fighting the restrictions like I did instead of watching netflix (or whatever they wasted their time on while not working). To a great extent they have only themselves to blame. (And yes I too could have fought harder. But at least I fought.)

    The war today is online, not in the courts or at the capitol. And if you refuse to fight and make cowardly excuses for running away and bicker with your allies here in your safe space, that’s fine but then you cede any justification for violence, insurrection or intimidating judges when they rule against you.

    1. Small landlords are totally fucked. I’ve never been so thankful for my good tenants. Seriously. It pays to screen thoroughly and keep your rent reasonable or even a little under market. If they had stopped paying rent, I would have to come out of pocket for a 18 months of mortgage payments. This is the west coast, so I could access some equity, I suppose, but why should the risk and cost fall on the landlord, and not the tenant or mortgage bank?

      Because this situation is a neat little allegory for the entirety of government tax and fiscal policies: tax the ever living fuck out of the middle, productive class, but give free shit to the poor voters you can buy off and the rich donors you need to please.

      1. Yup, it’s a similar problem with raising the minimum wage. Landlords love it because they can almost immediately hike the rents. So they don’t fight it even though it hurts them in the long run.

    2. Yeah, I’m sure “Gitmo is for Trumpanzees” on Twitter is rethinking his beliefs because of your comment, lol.

  4. This has been the longest two weeks of my life.

    1. Baby, I’m five inches…on the Fauci scale.

  5. Renters can still be evicted under the CDC order for engaging in on-premises criminal activity, for threatening the health and safety of other residents, for damaging the property, for violating building codes, or for violating lease terms other than not paying rent.

    *Or* for lying on their written declaration, right? RIGHT?!

  6. The ‘federal’ government doesn’t have this authority!!!
    State’s *NEED* to nullify this unconstitutional power grab.

  7. If even one judge has set aside the order as violating the APA, how is it in effect anywhere?

    1. I refer you to the only part of the Constitution still in effect, the FYTW Clause.

    2. Because courts are only supposed to judge actual controversies, not to make determinations on hypotheticals. There have been a number of very good articles over on the Volokh Conspiracy about the Nationwide Injunction controversy. Nationwide injunctions existed before Trump but their use exploded among judges ruling against Trump administration decisions. That explosion of use exposed the weakness of the legal underpinnings of the practice.

      All three decisions against the CDC were published by judges who have also argued at one level or another against the concept of nationwide injunctions.

      1. Citing statutory authority to “hold unlawful and set aside” agency action in excess of authority, the judge in the Ohio case did that. Is it only set aside in the Northern District of Ohio?

  8. I considered renting my empty place. Not anymore.

  9. It’s been a while since I read “The Population Bomb” does Malthusian overpopulation still count if the offending shortage is self-induced?

  10. Plot Twist: the landlords’ rights group finds at least one active military member who’s not paying rent and sues on Third Amendment grounds.

  11. She has money for tattoos but no rent. Priorities.

    1. Priorities dictate that you point out that she’s not wearing a bra, possibly point out that walking the streets without a bra, she could have a place to live *and* make rent, *then* raise the issue about tattoos and rent.

      Are we not libertarians?

  12. Well what did we learn about all this. If you whine like a leftist bitch you get your skids greased.

    Practical rational hard working tax paying Americans got fucked.

  13. How in hell can a federal agency control an agreement between two private parties conducted purely within the confines of a local unit of government having absolutely no element of “interstate commerce”?

    That the federal government has been engaged in blatantly un-Constitutional behavior for almost as long as we have had a Constitution doesn’t mitigate the harm that this tyrannical gang of criminals is inflicting on a supine populace.

    Is there a solution, short of the total collapse of society along with the near-inevitable mass extermination of what has become a brain-dead populace? I would hope so, but imagine what that might be. The parasites in the government will not willingly surrender power, and the parasites who benefit from the government won’t willingly surrender wealth plundered on their behalf. What’s left?

  14. Surprised that they haven’t decided that couples making under $200,000 who can’t pay their mortgage shouldn’t have to pay. Too bad we’ve paid our house off.

  15. Definitely, eliminate the eviction ban. What this country needs is more homeless families.

    1. Not all evicted will become homeless.
      But it restores the balance of negotiation between tenants and landlords.
      1) Tenants who don’t want to be in the streets will be motivated to come to some arrangement where they are making some partial monthly payments. After all, many have continued income via unemployment insurance, some with more income now then when employed. But under the present system they can stiff their landlord with no immediate consequence.
      2) Landlords will be motivated to hang on to historically good tenants who are making some mutually agreed partial payment. Eviction is only useful to the landlord if there is an available replacement tenant who will pay more than the current tenant.

      Question for the lawyers. If any of the tenants are active duty military in off-base housing, (stiffing the landlord on the basis that their non-military spouse lost income), would this be a 3A constitutional question? Not much out there on the third amendment law since the redcoats departed 250 years ago.

  16. CDC head says as she warns of potential 4th pandemic surge in U.S.
    U.S. officials issued what was intended to be a sobering warning Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic could still get a whole lot worse.
    Their unusually emotional message carried obvious international implications, especially given that the U.S. has already vaccinated its citizens at a rate triple Canada’s.
    The theme of a White House briefing Monday was that this is a terrible time for the country to let down its guard and reopen as some states are doing.
    https://worldabcnews.com/right-now-im-scared-cdc-head-says-as-she-warns-of-potential-4th-pandemic-surge-in-u-s/

  17. Even for the CDC, it’s not about preventing Covid.

    Far less intrusive would be making the evicted a vaccination priority. Vaccination is a nearly perfect, making the rate of serious covid illness practically nill. Sure homelessness sucks. But so does having deadbeat renters. A $10 shot can fix the first problem. But fixing the housing market after landlords are raped is going to be far more expensive for renters in the future.

  18. Dr Zhivago- ville. Just take over. And screw private property rights. Holy shit!

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