New federal eviction moratorium highlights urgent need for long-term rental assistance

August 3, 2021
by Michael Santos, Senior Policy Associate

On July 31, 2021, the federal eviction moratorium, issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic, expired. Advocates and lawmakers were deeply concerned about the increase in the number of evictions, homelessness, and COVID infections as a result. Some continued to demand action after Congress failed to extend the CDC moratorium before the House recessed.

On August 3, 2021, the CDC issued a new 60-day moratorium through October 3, limited to counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission of COVID-19. The moratorium protects approximately 90 percent of renters, but affirmative steps need to be taken in order to be protected by this moratorium, including filling out a declaration. Renters should contact an attorney to get legal advice on the moratorium and their rights as a tenant.

Without the moratorium, millions of evictions were expected to get filed across the country, likely to result in greater housing instability, homelessness, and COVID-19 infections. Going through an eviction is a traumatic event, particularly with the threat of getting sick from COVID-19 if someone loses their home; and having an eviction on someone’s rental history will make it harder for them to find and secure future housing because landlords are unlikely to rent to them. Congress still must act to prevent these unnecessary harms to struggling households.

There are actions that can be taken on the state and local levels, including but not limited to expediting the rollout of emergency rental assistance funds, increasing renter protections, enacting or extending state and local eviction moratoria, and putting the pressure on local courts to further minimize and mitigate the expected large-scale displacement of vulnerable tenants.

One big lesson from the expiration of the prior CDC moratorium is that housing is directly linked to health outcomes. Additionally, federal actions that will be taken, including the new moratorium, are likely to be limited and most state and local moratoria are also due to expire, resulting in a patchwork of short-term renter protections available only to some renters in certain jurisdictions. And to be clear, the new moratorium is expected to face legal challenges and may be invalidated, in light of the Supreme Court ruling that any extension of the CDC moratorium requires Congressional action. Advocates argued that it was key for policymakers to take this step, however, to protect renters and allow for more time for emergency rental assistance resources to get to landlords and renters. These concerns highlight the urgent need for long-term assistance, as many households experience prolonged housing instability because they have been unable to afford their homes even before the pandemic hit.

Even those already eligible for federal housing assistance endure long waits because of chronic underinvestment in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. Short-term emergency rental assistance funds are insufficient to address an ongoing affordable housing crisis. Long-term investments such as increasing the supply of affordable housing must be paired with HCVs for low-income households to truly afford their homes in the future.

While Congress was unable to extend the CDC moratorium, Congress still has an opportunity in the upcoming budget process to address the underlying crisis that made households even more vulnerable during the pandemic: prioritize the expansion of long-term rental assistance through guaranteed multi-year funding for HCVs in the budget reconciliation. If Congress does not learn from these lessons, history will repeat itself, continuing the intergenerational cycle of homelessness and poverty.

TAKE ACTION: If you want to take action in August, here are some things you can do to show support for addressing the underlying housing crisis (find more details and talking points on housing and taxes in the August 2021 U.S. Poverty Action):

  1. Attend a congressional town hall and ask a question. Use public events members are hosting as an opportunity to ask them questions about housing or the EITC/CTC.
  2. Submit a letter to the editor. Members of Congress pay close attention to what local papers are saying about the issues. Use the Laser Talks in the August Action to draft your own letter to the editor on housing and/or the tax credits (you can also send LTEs directly from our website) and send them to your local paper.
  3. Write letters to your members of Congress. Use the Laser Talks again to draft an old school letter to your member of Congress about housing and/or the EITC/CTC, urging your representatives and senators into action.

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