DC evictions still temporarily paused while federal moratorium remains uncertain

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D.C.’s plan to wind down its eviction moratorium will proceed as scheduled, irrespective of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) federal ban on evictions having lapsed on Saturday, according to a spokesperson for D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson. 

The D.C. Council passed its plan last month to slowly roll back the local eviction ban that has been in place since the COVID-19 public health emergency began in March 2020. The ordinance was enacted the day before the District’s ban would have automatically expired, and will take effect in stages over the remainder of 2021 until landlords fully regain their ability to evict tenants. According to Mendelson’s spokesperson, evictions related to nonpayment of rent cannot proceed in the District until Oct. 12.

Eviction moratoriums have been used by both the city and federal governments as a public health measure during the pandemic, protecting economically vulnerable residents by not forcing them to move or risk homelessness. These protections are particularly relevant to African American and Latinx residents — both demographics have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and also make up a higher share of eviction filings relative to their share of renters nationwide.

The CDC’s ban, which began last September, had its expiration date pushed back multiple times — most recently at the beginning of the summer, when the federal government extended it until the end of July. 

Days after that extension was announced, however, the Supreme Court stepped in to curb further extensions. The court’s conservative majority, minus Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority by issuing the moratorium, and that any further extensions beyond July would require explicit congressional authorization.

Lacking that authorization, the White House has given mixed signals on how it will proceed. The Biden administration announced Tuesday afternoon that it would be issuing a new eviction moratorium until Oct. 3. As recently as the previous day, however, administration officials insisted they lacked the legal authority to act without Congress — a fact which was still true when they did announce the moratorium the following day.  

Lawmakers in Congress failed to act — House Republicans objected to unanimously passing the measure before members began leaving town for an August recess, and Democrats did not delay the recess to hold a vote. Any legislation renewing the moratorium would also have to pass the Senate, which may prove insurmountable given Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the chamber. Without congressional authorization, it is likely the Biden administration’s new moratorium will face legal challenges.

Progressives in the House are vocally frustrated by what they view as a lack of urgency from party leadership. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused with two of her children, demonstrated against congressional inaction by sleeping on the Capitol steps for five days straight.

At the time of publication, the House remains in recess.

Issues |COVID-19|Eviction|Housing

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