The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Biden administration’s latest attempt at an eviction ban, arguing that the recently implemented moratorium was invalid without congressional action.
“Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation, yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration,” the court stated in an unsigned opinion.
“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the court reiterated.
President Joe Biden, the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — which issued the new ban three days after the previous one expired — were hopeful that the new version of the moratorium, which was tied to high COVID-19 infection rates in certain areas of the country, would pass court muster. But many conservatives, as well as real estate and mortgage lending professionals, pointed to a June 2021 decision on the previous ban.
In that decision, Justice Brett Kavanagh wrote that “in [his] view, clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.”
“The Biden administration is disappointed that the Supreme Court has blocked the most recent CDC eviction moratorium while confirmed cases of the delta variant are significant across the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said after the ruling was made.
“As a result of this ruling, families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
Apartment industry groups, however, praised the decision. The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) released a statement in which it said that while it originally supported a temporary eviction ban, the various moratoriums on evictions have gone long enough and have hurt millions of landlords.
“At the onset of the pandemic, NMHC supported a voluntary, short-term halt to evictions to keep families safely and securely housed. However, a long-term eviction moratorium was never the right policy,” the group stated. “It does nothing to speed the delivery of real solutions for America’s renters and ignores the unsustainable and unfair economic burden placed on millions of housing providers, jeopardizing their financial stability and threatening the loss of affordable-housing stock nationwide.”
The National Apartment Association (NAA) echoed these thoughts.
“The government must move past failed policies and begin to seriously address the nation’s debt tsunami, which is crippling both renters and housing providers alike,” said Bob Pinnegar, the NAA’s president and CEO. “Only by moving past moratoriums can we ensure America’s 40 million renters have affordable homes today, tomorrow and in the future.
“Though the moratorium is lifted, it is important to remember that billions in debt remain on renters’ records and housing providers’ shoulders. It’s past time to focus on the most sustainable path forward of full rental-assistance funding and streamlined distribution.”
The NAA currently has a pending lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to recover damages suffered by rental-housing providers during the CDC’s previous moratorium.
With the eviction ban now struck down, the focus moves to the funds that have been apportioned by the federal government to be distributed to those in need in the rental community, both renters and landlords alike. More than $45 billion in rental assistance has been earmarked by Congress, but so far, very little of it has actually been distributed.
“The recent Supreme Court ruling to overturn the CDC’s eviction moratorium makes it all the more important to disburse the funds that have been allocated to communities to provide rent assistance to qualified renters and landlords,” said David M. Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference. “For over a year, many apartment owners have covered the expenses and lost rent for renters unable to pay due to the pandemic.
“Most are small ‘mom and pop’ landlords who depend on rental income to get by. State and local governments must do whatever is necessary to move this historic amount of support, or return funds for reallocation to grantees who are successfully getting the money out.”