Struggling renters just got more time to sort out their finances.
The Biden administration on Monday extended a ban on many evictions for another three months, just days before it was set to expire. Citing the ongoing pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control said it will continue the moratorium until the end of June.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” the agency said in a statement. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The federal ban has probably kept millions of Americans from facing eviction since it was put in place by the Trump administration in September, particularly as even stricter state moratoriums, such as the one in Massachusetts, have expired. It prohibits courts from ordering the eviction of most households if they have lost income in the pandemic and would face homelessness.
As a practical matter, the ban has also discouraged many landlords from launching eviction cases, which in Massachusetts can take months to work through court. In 2021 so far, 5,911 eviction cases have been filed in the state, according to court data, down 29 percent from the same period last year. Most of those cases were initiated before housing courts closed last March due to the pandemic.
At the same time, rent-relief funds are starting to flow from Washington, D.C., to help tenants who are still out of work keep current and pay off debt they accumulated last year. The stimulus packages passed in December and March will, combined, send roughly $900 million in rental funds to Massachusetts. The Baker administration plans to pump much of it into a rental aid program that provides up to $10,000 to tenants and their landlords. Extending the federal eviction ban, advocates say, will give more time for that money to reach people.
Still, the ban is controversial. Many landlord groups oppose the measure, saying it forces them to provide housing without compensation. And federal judges in Texas and Ohio recently ruled against it in lawsuits, saying the CDC overstepped its authority, though neither judge has yet moved to strike down the ban nationwide. Still, even many supporters acknowledge the federal ban can not continue indefinitely.