Preventing an Epidemic of Eviction During COVID-19: What Are the Limits?
Shortly before COVID-19 arrived, 10.9 million renter households — 25% of all renter households — were spending over 50% of their income on rent each month. Before the pandemic over 61 million eviction cases were filed annually. Last year, policy makers quickly saw that the public health crisis could turn an existing housing and eviction crisis into an unprecedented catastrophe. The challenge became how to maintain shelter for renters during a pandemic and keep people in their homes to prevent the spread of the virus.
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Advocates and policy makers soon settled on a strategy to prevent the potential devastation, halting evictions temporarily. The first nationwide eviction moratorium was included in the comprehensive federal stimulus package enacted in response to COVID-19, set to expire on July 25, 2020. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (2020). 15 U.S.C. § 9058. It was limited to certain “covered housing,” however, such as housing financed using Low-Income Housing Tax Credits or housing with a federally backed mortgage loan. 15 U.S.C. § 9058(a)(2).
In summer 2020, as fears for a fall and winter COVID-19 surge grew, the CARES Act and many state moratoria expired. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a national eviction moratorium in early September as a public health measure to mitigate the spread and effect of COVID-19. Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions To Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19, 85 Fed. Reg. 55,292 (Sep. 4, 2020). In contrast to the CARES Act, the CDC eviction halt applied to landlords more broadly. Id. Although the CDC extended the moratorium through the first half of 2021, it expired in July.