By Peter Hepburn
Mr. Hepburn, an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University-Newark, runs the Eviction Tracking System at the Eviction Lab.
A federal judge last month struck down the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the judge stayed her decision pending appeal, the ruling is a harbinger of the inevitable: the end of the federal eviction moratorium, which is set to expire on June 30. With millions of tenants behind on rent and emergency rental assistance only now beginning to be disbursed, few states are ready for this eventuality.
According to the Covid-19 Housing Policy Scorecard — which is run by the Eviction Lab at Princeton where I work — only two states, Minnesota and Washington, afford renters strong pandemic-related protections, defined as freezing the eviction process in most or all cases. Thirty-nine states have few, if any, protections. No state that voted for Donald Trump in 2020 is still offering meaningful protections to renters.
The C.D.C. moratorium, which has now been in place for nine months, limits landlords’ ability to evict tenants who fall under certain income thresholds or are unable to pay rent because of a medical or economic hardship. Tenants must attest — and often prove under cross-examination in court — that they have made good-faith efforts to get rental assistance and have nowhere to go if evicted.
In anticipation of the end of federal renter protections, progressive housing activists persuaded lawmakers to make a robust investment in emergency rental assistance. Congress appropriated $25 billion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December and an additional $21.55 billion in the American Rescue Plan in March. These funds are intended to help renters catch up on back rent and to support landlords struggling to make mortgage and utility payments because of missed rent.
This aid, however, won’t be equally available everywhere. Congress allocated assistance on the basis of state population, without taking into account differences in the number of renter households, variation in the cost of rent, or the extent of pandemic-related hardship.
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