Can The CDC Save America From An Eviction Crisis?

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A CDC order released on Tuesday and effective immediately stops all residential evictions until December 31st, 2020 for people who make $99,000 a year or less. This sweeping eviction halt comes over a month after the CARES Act federal eviction moratorium expired on July 25. The CDC order covers more people than the CARES Act moratorium did, because it isn’t limited to people living in certain federally-subsidized properties.
To be eligible under the CDC order, the following have to be true:
• You make no more than $99,000 a year
• You’ve already tried to get all forms of government assistance for rent and housing
• You’ve had a “substantial loss of household income”
• You’ve still been trying your best to make the highest partial rent payments you can afford, as close to when rent is due as possible
• Being evicted from your home right now would probably lead you to homelessness or force you to live in close quarters with others
To be protected, tenants should read and sign the declaration form that’s attached to the CDC order, which states that the above apply to you, and present it to their landlord.
The CDC order calls eviction moratoriums an “effective public health measure” against COVID-19, citing the enormous number of Americans who have died from the disease (184,564, at time of writing). People who are evicted and either have no home in which they can quarantine, or those who are forced to live in crowded housing (like homeless shelters) are obviously at higher risk of both getting and spreading the coronavirus. Given that the CDC is a public health institute, it makes clear that its intention in enacting this order is to stop the further spread of COVID-19 within the U.S. A recent study by the Aspen Institute found that between 30 to 40 million people could be at risk of eviction. The CDC says that, additionally, those who are at risk of becoming homeless due to evictions are more likely to suffer severe symptoms from COVID-19. The oncoming flu season is another point of worry for the CDC.
That may be why the order makes it illegal for landlords to begin eviction proceedings for the time being, but stops short of actually providing financial relief for burdened renters. The order explicitly states that it does not cancel rent or relieve any obligation to paying other housing fees. This means that, come January 2021, we may see a surge of eviction filings in housing courts that cite months of unpaid rent during the moratorium as a reason for kicking tenants out. It’s hard to see how people who are failing to make full payments right now will suddenly have the income to not only make current rent payments but missed payments from months ago. (People may also still be evicted for other reasons unrelated to not paying rent in full, such as threatening the health or safety of other tenants.)
It’s also important to note that eviction moratoriums don’t always protect tenants, because enforcement measures fall short. It’s unclear, for example, what exactly the punishment for landlords who attempt to evade the eviction ban will be. Tenants also may not know about their rights and which protections they currently have; they may agree to leave their homes when threatened by landlords, fearing what might happen if they don’t comply. The CDC has taken a crucial step in protecting Americans amid one of the greatest crises in recent history — but we still need to do more to ensure that people aren’t removed from their homes during the pandemic or accrue crippling debt because of their housing.

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