Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put forward temporarily halting residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. “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,” the order reads, adding that “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.”
Ever since Congress had failed to come up with an adequate follow-up to the expired weekly supplement to regular unemployment benefits, fears of a mass eviction crisis had mounted across the United States. According to estimates published by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project and the Aspen Institute in early August, up to 40 million American renters were at risk of eviction this year – a risk at least temporarily mitigated by this week’s moratorium.
And while tenants hit by the unprecedented jobs crisis will be relieved to avoid eviction for now, landlord associations, housing researchers and economists are calling for some kind of rent assistance program, because the CDC’s order only hits pause on what could turn into a major housing crisis. Without a mechanism helping tenants to cover at least parts of their rent, they will still be up for eviction once the moratorium expires, and in the meantime, landlords themselves may run into difficulties covering expenses and mortgage payments.