The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) instituted a federal eviction moratorium in September 2020. The most recent of four extensions pushed the deadline back to July 31.
Just because a moratorium on evictions ends doesn't mean the housing crisis goes away. What's really going to happen when the deadline hits?
More evictions and a surge in unhoused populations
The eviction moratorium wasn't designed to prevent evictions, but rather to delay them.
Once the eviction moratorium officially ends, tenants who owe back rent will be required to pay it off or risk getting evicted. If they decide not to pay and get evicted, their credit will also suffer, which will damage their available opportunities for rentals and mortgages in the future.
That's a big ask for people who have been financially struck down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The back rent problem won't go away when the eviction moratorium ends.
In May, research showed that the average tenant owed $5,600 in back rent. That's 9.4 million households that owe approximately $52.6 billion in back rent.
An eviction moratorium doesn't mean that rent payments stop. If you can't pay one month, those bills pile up and you'll eventually be forced to pay for them or risk eviction. That's another problem people will be facing. They will have to choose between paying their back rent or risking their credit and trying to find somewhere new to live (whether that be a shelter or a rental, the latter of which charges a security deposit and at least the first month's rent).
The federal eviction moratorium isn't sweeping, and people are still getting evicted.
Landlords have been able to evict tenants in certain scenarios, like if the tenant damaged the property or violated other terms of the lease agreement unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tenants have been directed to a CDC Eviction Protection Declaration form, where they can check off boxes to denote their household income decreased, their employment status changed, or they received a stimulus check. It's illegal to lie on the declaration, and anyone who gets caught could face charges for perjury. The CDC designed the form as a way to protect financially vulnerable individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Will the CDC extend the federal eviction moratorium for a fifth time?
In a press release published shortly after the June 24 extension, the CDC wrote, "This is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium."
Why are federal eviction bans of concern for the CDC? According to the organization, "The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health. Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings—like homeless shelters—by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19."
Currently, 49.3 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, which is well below the 70 percent estimated threshold for herd immunity. Most of the cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant have occurred in non-vaccinated individuals So, increasing the vaccination rate will be the CDC's go-to once the eviction moratorium ends.