U.S. House Drops Last-Minute Effort to Extend Eviction Ban

U.S. Capitol

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Update: The headline of this story was updated on the evening of July 30 after the House of Representatives dropped efforts to extend the national eviction moratorium. The moratorium will expire on July 31, though moratoriums remain in effect in many states and localities. The National Association of REALTORS® has opposed extending the moratorium. In a note to volunteer leaders, NAR Chief Advocacy Officer Shannon McGahn said, “NAR worked throughout 2020 to help secure nearly $50 billion in rental assistance to cover up to a year-and-a-half of combined future and past rent and utilities for struggling tenants. The White House renewed calls tonight for states to speedily distribute rental assistance, and NAR continues to work toward that effort as well."To help property managers and housing providers navigate the change, NAR is hosting a free webinar, "Next Up: After the Eviction Moratorium," Aug. 4, 1 p.m. Central time.

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The White House is asking Congress to extend the nationwide eviction moratorium before it expires on Saturday, despite rising opposition among real estate groups who argue it’s hurting housing providers after more than a year of lost rent. The eviction moratorium prohibits housing providers from evicting tenants who have failed to pay rent due to financial struggles from the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented the ban on evictions in September 2020 in the name of public health. The Biden administration has extended the moratorium multiple times since then. But the extensions have cost housing providers greatly, resulting in more than $13 billion in unpaid rent per month.

Real estate groups have taken the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, raising the question of whether the CDC had the legal authority for its eviction moratorium. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the CDC moratorium could stay in place until July 31 but congressional action would be needed to extend it past that date.

At President Joe Biden’s urging, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Democratic colleagues late Thursday to extend the moratorium to the end of the year. Pelosi called it a “moral imperative” to help protect tenants. The bill is expected on the House floor Friday.

Biden also has asked the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs to extend their eviction moratoriums through the end of September, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement on Thursday. He is also asking states and local jurisdictions to “urgently accelerate” their efforts to disburse emergency rental assistance funds.

NAR Speaks Out

The National Association of REALTORS® “is prepared to oppose vigorously any unreasonable effort by Congress to extend the ban without assistance for small housing providers,” Shannon McGahn, the association’s chief advocacy officer, said in an all-member email from the association Thursday evening. “We have argued all along that the best solution for all parties is rental assistance for tenants in need paid directly to housing providers. Nearly half of all rental housing in America is a mom-and-pop operation, and these providers cannot continue to live in a state of financial hardship.”

McGahn added that rental assistance is now available in all 50 states, the economy is improving, and millions of jobs remain unfilled. “It’s time to return the housing market to its former, healthy function,” she said.

Legal Battles Brew

The CDC’s eviction moratorium has faced multiple legal challenges. The Georgia and Alabama REALTOR® associations and two housing providers, with NAR’s help, filed a lawsuit in federal court that challenged the CDC’s authority to impose a ban on evictions. The U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia ruled that the CDC overstepped its authority.

In June, the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the CDC exceeded its authority with the ban. Four justices called on the ban to end immediately. But the court allowed the ban to stay in effect until its July 31 deadline to allow for more time for a transition and for distribution of rental assistance.

This week, the National Apartment Association filed a lawsuit in federal claims court that demands the federal government compensate housing providers due to their “severe economic losses” from the eviction moratorium. That complaint estimates housing providers face $26.6 billion in debt and contends that the CDC’s ban violates the rights of housing providers.

Rental Assistance Is Still Available

NAR has been a strong advocate to secure rental assistance for tenants. Nearly $50 billion has been obtained through two pieces of legislation. So far, an estimated 6.5% has been distributed of those funds, as of last week.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced this week a new online tool where renters and housing providers who continue to face pandemic-related financial hardships can locate and apply for payment assistance for rent, utilities, and other expenses. The new Rental Assistance Finder, at consumerfinance.gov/renthelp, can guide housing providers and renters to assistance programs in their area.

NAR also offers a webpage devoted to information for its members, including links to emergency rental assistance programs, government resources, and more. Access it at NAR.realtor.