Many in the housing industry are reacting to an announcement Tuesday that the Trump administration, by way of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has put a new conditional eviction ban in place, effective immediately.
The order follows President Trump’s early-August Executive Order, which directed the CDC to "evaluate whether temporarily halting evictions for failure to pay rent would be reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The CDC has concluded that such a temporary ban on evictions would be an effective measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19."
“In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria—like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing—can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” the CDC stated in writing. “Eviction moratoria facilitate self-isolation by people who become ill or who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition.”
Initial reports noted that the rule potentially would be subject to pushback from property owners. Some landlords already have been fighting eviction bans at a state level. Administration officials have said that it will be up to local courts to adjudicate eviction filings, but that the federal order should protect all tenants who qualify for the program should they face judicial proceedings.
Housing advocates immediately began reacting to the news. Most commended the action, while adding that more needs to happen in order to protect both landowners and renters.
National Association of Realtors (NAR) stated “appreciation and support of administration efforts to ensure struggling Americans can remain in their homes.”
But NAR President Vince Malta went on to say that “this order as-written will bring chaos to our nation’s critical rental housing sector and put countless property owners out of business.”
“Any eviction moratorium must also come with rental assistance for property owners, the vast majority of which are mom-and-pop investors and are still required to meet their financial obligations even as they cease to receive income on their properties,” Malta said. “NAR strongly encourages Congress to pass immediate legislation that would instead provide emergency rental assistance programs directly to housing providers.”
The National Multifamily Housing Council released a statement expressing dissatisfaction “that the Administration has chosen to enact a federal eviction moratorium without the existence of dedicated, long-term funding for rental and unemployment assistance.”
Not only does an eviction moratorium not address renters’ real financial needs, they said, but also a protracted eviction moratorium does nothing to address the financial pressures and obligations of rental property owners.
“Without mortgage forbearance protections and protections from other property-level financial obligations such as property taxes, insurance payments, and utility service, the stability of the entire rental housing sector is thrown into question.”
The NMHC added that it is best left to state and local officials who better know their housing markets and can tailor protections to the varied and unique eviction laws and judicial processes across jurisdictions.
To that last point, the CDC stated that the eviction ban will “allow State and local authorities to more easily implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19.”
National Housing Conference President and CEO David M. Dworkin said the order “does a good job of explaining in great detail why we must address this growing crisis.”
“Unfortunately, it does nothing to solve it,” he added. “It merely kicks the problem down the road to January, when the weather will be colder and more people will be experiencing even greater crisis.”
The federal halt on evictions will be in place until December 31.