State and local bans have been of some help in keeping renters in their homes, but the federal moratorium hasn't had much impact. Targeted cash relief and an abundant housing market are the best tenant protections.
Advocates for low-income Americans have warned of a “tsunami of evictions” ever since the COVID-19 pandemic first came ashore in early 2020. They foresaw tenants by the tens of millions losing shelter over missed rent payments and risking greater exposure to the coronavirus unless policymakers acted. Governments listened: 48 states issued eviction moratoria, as did many big cities and ultimately the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, President Joe Biden has renewed the CDC’s eviction moratorium for the fourth and presumably final time, to the end of this month, and last week a divided Supreme Court rejected an effort by landlords and real estate interests to lift the ban.
Is an eviction tsunami still just over the horizon? Tenant activists and progressive lawmakers seem to think so: A letter from 44 Democratic members of Congress said that renewing the CDC’s ban would “help prevent a historic wave of evictions,” and the National Low Income Housing Coalition called for “extending, strengthening and enforcing the federal eviction moratorium.” There’s just one problem: There’s little evidence that the federal government’s eviction ban actually has done much good. State and local moratoria have been better at curtailing evictions, but they came with more hidden costs to tenants and property owners, while other programs have proved far more effective at helping renters. Contrary to activists’ dire warnings, there is little to suggest that an eviction tsunami is really on the way.
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