Just before the federal eviction moratorium is set to end on Saturday, President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will allow it to expire despite calls from housing advocates to extend it.
The White House said that Biden wanted to extend the moratorium, citing concerns over the Delta variant of COVID-19. The Supreme Court wouldn’t allow the moratorium to continue, the White House argued. The Supreme Court ruled last month that it would not strike down the moratorium but let it remain in place until the end of July when it was set to expire.
Biden has called on Congress, instead, to act. “In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the President calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay,” the White House wrote in a statement.
The White House and other legislators in Washington have been under pressure from the real estate industry to end the moratorium. A report this week by Accountable.US found that real estate groups have been lobbying Congress and the White House, even pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of politicians like Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), who have both advocated against the moratorium.
The lobbying against the moratorium has occurred despite the fact that many large financial and real estate firms have reported stable or high earnings in the first quarter of 2021, the report found, indicating that lifting the moratorium isn’t financially necessary for the groups.
Instead, as housing advocates have pointed out, the ending of the moratorium is likely to create havoc for renters across the U.S. By the White House’s own count, the eviction moratorium, set in place to protect renters during the pandemic, has prevented 1.55 million evictions. Though, with the Census Bureau finding that 8 million people have reported falling behind on rent during the pandemic, the number could be much higher.
Housing researchers and advocates have been warning of a coming wave of evictions when the moratorium ends. Even with the moratorium, landlords in some states were filing for evictions — and those that were filed were disproportionately located in communities of color, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.
Reporters and advocates questioned why the White House’s announcement came only two days before the moratorium is set to end. “Hard to understate how late this came, especially given public pressure around [Emergency Rental Assistance] spending and the delta variant,” wrote The Washington Post’s Rachel Leah Siegel on Twitter. “White House says the Supreme Court made clear the moratorium couldn’t be extended. But that is not news, and now they’re looking to Congress right before July 31.”
The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein said, despite the fact that the Biden administration claimed the president wanted the moratorium to continue, Stein hasn’t found evidence of that in his reporting on the White House. “After weeks of silence, the White House is now saying — just 3 days before the eviction moratorium expires — that they want Congress to extend it but can’t themselves,” said Stein on Twitter. “My reporting suggests no senior officials in the WH were pushing for an extension even before the court ruling” in June.
As advocates pointed out, the pandemic is also surging harder than it was in June when the Supreme Court passed down its decision. Cases were hitting a low point in June in the U.S., but, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) own guidance shows, the virus is again spreading through communities. Case counts are 146 percent of what they were two weeks ago as of Thursday, according to The New York Times. High case counts, experts say, are largely due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Politicians and political figures have called for the moratorium to be extended. “I urge the Biden Administration to extend the CDC’s eviction moratorium. It is reckless not to extend the deadline when rental assistance funds have not gone out fast enough to protect people. Eviction filings have already spiked in anticipation of the moratorium being lifted,” wrote Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter.
“Poverty is a policy choice. We chose to prevent it during the pandemic and it worked,” said Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary under Barack Obama, referring to a recent study finding that the COVID stimulus is expected to fuel a record reduction in poverty in the U.S. “We can’t let up now. We must extend the moratorium on evictions and keep people from being kicked out of their homes.”