CDC imposes eviction moratorium through 2020

by Timothy Inklebarger

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a moratorium on evictions through the end of 2020, a move they say will help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The CDC noted in the order released today that the moratorium makes it easier for state and local authorities to implement stay-at-home and social distancing directives.

“Housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which then puts individuals at higher risk to COVID-19,” the order stated.

While the order has been celebrated by housing advocates, the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Home Builders and others criticized the decision, warning that the moratorium will hurt the economy without dedicated funds to assist property owners.

“While NAR appreciates and is supportive of administration efforts to ensure struggling Americans can remain in their homes, this order as-written will bring chaos to our nation’s critical rental housing sector and put countless property owners out of business,” NAR President Vince Malta said in a press release.

Malta added that “the vast majority” of property owners are mom-and-pop investors who still must meet their financial obligations. “An untailored eviction moratorium will bring more havoc to our economy, not less, and will put America’s 43 million renter households at significant risk,” Malta said. “NAR strongly encourages Congress to pass immediate legislation that would instead provide emergency rental assistance programs directly to housing providers, protecting Americans’ access to affordable housing and our nation’s critical rental housing sector,” he said.

The National Association of Home Builders echoed that sentiment and urged Congress to approve a relief package that would protect millions of renters and property owners.

“Absent rental income, these small mom-and-pop property owners must continue to pay their mortgage, property taxes, employees and cleaning/maintenance services,” NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke said in a press release. “Without sufficient rental income, a number of properties would be pushed into foreclosure. Congress must act now to assist renters and property owners.”

NAHB noted that renters seeking eligibility for moratorium status must sign, under penalty of perjury, a statement showing that they meet a variety of criteria, but they are not required to prove that they meet them. The criteria include showing that they have attempted to obtain government assistance; that they expect to earn no more than $99,000 for the calendar year; that they are unable to make a payment; that they are making their best effort to make partial payments; and that an eviction would likely render them homeless.

NAHB added that the order does not relieve renters of their obligation to pay and that owners are not precluded from charging fees, penalties or interest due to a failure to pay rent.

The National Multifamily Housing Council also called on Congress to extend unemployment benefits and rental assistance. NMHC noted in its most recent Rent Payment Tracker report that 92.1% of renters made full or partial payments by Aug. 27. That’s down 1.9 percentage points, roughly 210,458 households, from August 2019.

“The industry remains encouraged by the degree residents have prioritized their housing obligations so far, but each passing day means more distress for individuals and families, and greater risk for the nation’s housing sector,” NMHC President Doug Bibby said in a press release. “If policymakers want to prevent a health and economic crisis from quickly evolving into a housing crisis, they should act quickly to extend financial assistance to renters.”

Previous eviction moratoria have been enacted via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but this round from the CDC is different in that it is enacted via the Public Health Service Act. Had it been instituted under an Administrative Procedure Act, they would have had to create a public notice prior to enacting it, as well as opening it up to a public comment period.