An Eviction Ban Alone Won’t Prevent a Housing Crisis

September 3, 2020

As an eviction crisis has seemed increasingly likely this summer, everyone in the housing market has made the same plea to Washington: Send money — lots of it — that would keep renters in their homes and landlords afloat.

City officials have called for such rent relief. So have landlord associations, tenant advocates, legal aid lawyers, housing researchers, public health experts and economists.

Now millions of renters have been covered by a national eviction moratorium, an unprecedented order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help control the coronavirus pandemic. But there is still no money.

Congress has yet to adopt a new aid package that includes broad rent relief. It hasn’t passed any other cash assistance lately either. Expanded unemployment benefits, worth $600 a week, expired at the end of July, along with a more limited eviction moratorium. There have been no new stimulus checks. And additional unemployment benefits created by executive action by President Trump have not yet reached many workers.

That means that while the new order has halted most evictions through the end of the year, there remains no mechanism to cover what those tenants cannot pay — or to control the cascading consequences when rent dries up.

Tenants will still be on the hook for all this unpaid rent when the moratorium expires Dec. 31. And landlords in the meantime may find it increasingly hard to make repairs and cover the mortgage. For this reason, even advocates cheering the moratorium call it a half measure. And landlord groups warn it could destabilize the housing market even more.

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