New York Times
The U.S. Averted One Housing Crisis, but Another Is in the Wings
A moratorium on evictions did little to address the bigger problem: The country is running out of affordable places for people to live.
By Conor Dougherty and Glenn Thrush
June 16, 2021, 12:01 a.m. ET
While a big new wave of evictions seems unlikely, the end of the federal freeze has injected uncertainty into tenants’ lives and tilted the balance of power back in the favor of landlords. Tenants’ rights groups have begun pushing the Biden administration for a one- to two-month extension of the freeze to account for widespread delays in the processing and distribution of federal emergency housing aid. The administration is weighing an extension but has signaled it would be contingent on public health considerations, not the housing market.
“We’ve avoided some of the worst outcomes so far, but the crisis is not over,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group that has pushed for increased housing assistance. “If the Biden administration allows the federal eviction moratorium to expire before states and localities can distribute aid to households in need, millions of households would be at immediate risk of housing instability and, in worst case, homelessness.”
On Friday, 22 Democratic state attorneys general urged the Supreme Court to uphold the moratorium. “An unprecedented wave of mass evictions — amid the embryonic stages of the post-pandemic recovery — would be catastrophic,” they wrote.
The moratorium was never a mandate, and local housing court judges have always had broad latitude. As a result, thousands of tenants who were behind in their rents were evicted during the pandemic despite federal and local freezes, often for violations of terms of their leases not directly related to nonpayment.