Millions of American renters wiped their brows with relief last month when President Joe Biden and his administration extended the eviction moratorium.
Now, they’re starting to sweat once again after the Supreme Court’s decision to block the ban Thursday.
Despite rising COVID-19 cases, the court’s conservative majority is putting more than 3.5 million people who said they will face eviction in the next two months at risk of homelessness, according to Census Bureau data from early August.
The court ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not have the authority to reimpose the moratorium and that any federal decisions must be authorized by Congress.
Ahead of the block, the Biden administration announced new actions to protect vulnerable tenants and landlords, including steps that the Treasury Department is taking to strengthen existing guidelines and implement new policies. These include self-attestation to document household eligibility for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which speeds up application processing, and giving state and local grantees the ability to provide advances on expected assistance and enter into partnerships with nonprofits to deliver advance funding.
Jeanine Kleimo, chair of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing, said her group knew the moratorium couldn’t last forever, but it would be less challenging if the monies allocated by Congress for rental assistance was more easily available and quicker.
“We have people who can’t pay because of COVID, and they haven’t been able to get the rental assistance processed because it’s just so slow,” Ms. Kleimo said.
She said there are many small landlords that are having difficulty enduring the moratorium, as well. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau noted that most federal rental-assistance programs accept applications from landlords. The Treasury Department also expects that, in general, rental and utility assistance can be provided most effectively and efficiently when the landlord or utility provider participates in the ERA program.
Ms. Kleimo said there is already a lack of affordable housing in the Dover community to begin with. She said most housing stock is designed for nuclear families, when the renter community is mostly made up of single people and single parents. DIMH works to create affordable housing for individuals as they move from homelessness to stability.
Eugene Young, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, said it is ready to continue to deploy rental and housing stability assistance. Since the start of the pandemic, the Delaware Housing Assistance Program has provided rental support totaling over $31 million to renters and landlords statewide.
“We know the Supreme Court decision removing the federal eviction protections will exacerbate housing concerns for Delaware renter households,” he said in a statement. “In early Spring of 2020, we responded immediately to the rental housing crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our efforts have had a dramatic impact in reducing evictions, stabilizing households and landlords. Assistance remains available and we remain committed to helping Delawareans in need.”
Additionally, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., recently sent out a letter to constituents who wrote to him about the eviction moratorium.
“I believe all Americans should have access to safe, decent, and sanitary housing, and the eviction moratorium has helped people stay in their homes during this crisis,” he said in the letter. “I will continue to work to ensure that this assistance reaches households as quickly as possible to reduce the burden on both tenants and landlords and help ensure housing stability for all Americans.”
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement backing the moratorium extension and voicing disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision.
“As a result of this ruling, families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19,” she said. “In light of the Supreme Court ruling and the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission, President Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions — from cities and states to local courts, landlords, Cabinet Agencies — to urgently act to prevent evictions.”
The White House added that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will work with the owners of 400,000 rental units in USDA-backed multifamily properties to mitigate all pending evictions. Other departments in the Biden administration will also ensure tenants facing eviction receive additional time to receive ERA and increase support to at-risk veterans and their families.
Last month, 341,000 households across the country received rental and utilities assistance, up from 293,000 in June and 157,000 in May.