WASHINGTON – Based on a public health law aimed at preventing the spread of a disease, The Trump administration said Tuesday implements a national four-month moratorium on evictions.
The moratorium, announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was the latest move by the administration to address the financial impact of the pandemic coronavirus lacks agreement with Congress in a more extensive package that will have the force of law.
To stop the evictions, health officials relied on the 1944 Public Health Act, which gives the government broad quarantine powers. The moratorium, which runs until December 31, applies to people earning less than $ 99,000 a year and unable to make rent or housing payments.
“President Trump is committed to helping working Americans stay home and combat the spread of the coronavirus,” White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern told reporters Tuesday.
The move provoked a mixed reaction from housing experts: praising it could potentially keep tens of millions of Americans in their homes, but worries it only moves a deadline, possibly putting people out for eviction next year because they will continue to gather payments during the cessation of evictions.
It is also not clear how the move affects landlords, who must continue to make their own payments.
“The least the federal government has to do is reassure each of us that we will not lose our homes in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Coalition Coalition. “But while the moratorium on eviction is an essential step, it is a half-meter that extends an economic cliff for tenants to fall when the moratorium ends and the rent is due.”
Doug Bibby, chairman of the National Multi-Family Housing Council, said his organization was “disappointed” that the government had introduced a moratorium on eviction without funding for rent and unemployment benefits. The team supports the apartment industry.
“A moratorium on eviction will ultimately hurt the very people it intends to help by making it impossible for housing providers, especially small homeowners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents,” Bibby said.
And Bob Pinnegar, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association, said the organization and its members were “deeply concerned” by the moratorium. He said the lack of money for rental assistance risked creating a “waterfall” when apartment owners did not receive rent payments and then fell behind in maintaining their property or paying property taxes or mortgages.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers in Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday that the announcement of the evictions was likely to leave them “happy,” but acknowledged that he was not a substitute for Congress. The White House and Democrats in Congress have delayed talks to approve another incentive, allowing many relief programs to end.
“Our first choice is to have bilateral legislation that provides special rental assistance to the people most affected,” he said.
Asked by an Aspen Institute estimate that 30 to 40 million Americans were at risk of eviction, Mnuchin said the estimate was “absurdly high”, arguing that enforcement orders for higher unemployment benefits could help Americans pay rent.
“I think this is nothing close to what was observed during the 2007 mortgage and housing crisis,” he said.