On Thursday, the Biden administration extended the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) national ban on evictions for another month. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, explained that the ban—which was slated to expire on June 30—would be extended to July 31. However, the agency underlined that the month-long extension was “intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”
In the early days of the pandemic, the CDC implemented a temporary nationwide ban on evictions. The rationale for the ban was that homeless people would turn into vectors for Covid-19; therefore, there was an acute public safety incentive to keep them in their homes, even if it meant that landlords were temporarily powerless to remove tenants for not paying their bills.
While the measure was extremely controversial—it has been disputed, for instance, whether the CDC had the authority to demand such a sweeping ban in the first place—it has kept millions of Americans in their homes during the worst of the pandemic. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 6.4 million American households were behind on rent at the end of March; by June 7, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, roughly 3.2 million Americans are facing evictions once the ban lifts.
For the 3.2 million Americans kept in place by the moratorium, the month-long extension is excellent news. To landlords, however, it is a continuation of a frustrating policy that has been in place for more than a year. There is no question that a permanent eviction moratorium is not a practical policy in the long run; By blocking non-paying tenants from expulsion, it effectively strips landlords of control over their property, and disincentivizes others from renting their own land out. While the pandemic was at its height, such inconvenience could be justified on the basis of public health, but now that the recovery is in full swing and more than half of American adults have received at least one vaccine dose, the danger is receding.
Therefore, the challenge for the Biden administration is how to allow for evictions once more—a terrifying prospect for the families that will end up on the street—while minimizing the human harm that an eviction wave will do. To address the crisis in the final month, the Biden administration has introduced nearly $47 billion in emergency rental assistance funding, as well as a Homeowner Assistance Fund for homeowners behind on their mortgage payments.
This level of assistance will certainly help. But there are some who have advocated for more. Earlier in June, President Joe Biden received a letter from dozens of Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill, encouraging him to extend the moratorium to give more time for government assistance to arrive in the hands of at-risk tenants.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.