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White House aims to extend eviction moratorium

by GLENN THRUSH THE NEW YORK TIMES | June 24, 2021 at 4:06 a.m.

The Biden administration plans to extend the national moratorium on evictions, scheduled to expire June 30, by one month to buy more time to distribute billions of dollars in federal pandemic housing aid, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation.

The moratorium, instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September to prevent a wave of evictions spurred by the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic, has significantly limited the economic damage to renters and sharply reduced eviction filings.

Congressional Democrats, local officials and tenant groups have been warning that the expiration of the moratorium at the end of the month, and the lapsing of similar state and local measures, might touch off a new -- if somewhat less severe -- eviction crisis.

President Joe Biden's team decided to extend the moratorium by a month after an internal debate at the White House over the weekend. The step is one of a series of actions that the administration plans to take in the next several weeks, involving several federal agencies, the officials said.

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Other initiatives include a summit on housing affordability and evictions, to be held at the White House later this month; stepped-up coordination with local officials and legal aid organizations to minimize evictions after July 31; and new guidance from the Treasury Department meant to streamline the sluggish disbursement of the $21.5 billion in emergency aid included in the pandemic relief bill in the spring.

White House officials, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said that the one-month extension, while influenced by concerns over a new wave of evictions, was prompted by the lag in vaccination rates in some parts of the country and by other factors that have extended the coronavirus crisis.

Forty-four House Democrats wrote to Biden and the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, on Tuesday, urging them to put off allowing evictions to resume.

"By extending the moratorium and incorporating these critical improvements to protect vulnerable renters, we can work to curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color," the lawmakers wrote.

A spokesperson for the CDC did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Many local officials have also pressed to extend the freeze as long as possible and are bracing for a rise in evictions when the federal moratorium and similar state and city orders expire over the summer.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced Monday that his state had set aside $5.2 billion from federal aid packages to pay off the back rent of tenants who fell behind during the pandemic, a move intended to wipe the slate clean for millions of renters.

Still, groups representing private landlords maintain that the health crisis that justified the freeze has ended, and that continuing the freeze even for an extra four weeks would be an unwarranted government intrusion in the housing market.

"The mounting housing affordability crisis is quickly becoming a housing affordability disaster fueled by flawed eviction moratoriums, which leave renters with insurmountable debt and housing providers holding the bag," said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, a trade group representing owners of large residential buildings.

Print Headline: White House aims to extend eviction moratorium

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