CDC Signals Extension of Eviction Moratorium

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated it will extend its moratorium on residential evictions. The moratorium is currently set to expire March 31. The CDC recently submitted a proposal regarding the moratorium to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for regulatory review. The proposal is categorized as a “Notice,” which the OMB defines as “documents that announce new programs (such as grant programs) or agency policies.”

The backdrop: The moratorium was originally scheduled to expire at the end of 2020. It was created to “prevent the further spread of COVID-19.” Without an extension, the federal eviction ban is set to expire at a time when the federal government is racing to distribute relief provided for in the American Rescue Plan Act.

The pressure to extend the CDC's eviction moratorium has been increasing. Recently, a group of 2,272 associations, organizations, and elected officials sent a letter to President Joe Biden, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky urging improving and extending the current CDC eviction moratorium through “the end of the pandemic.”

According to the letter, “The eviction moratorium extends vital protections to renters at risk of eviction during the pandemic, and by doing so, it has helped keep stably housed millions of people who otherwise would have been evicted,” the letter said. “The federal eviction moratorium does, however, have significant shortcomings that undermine its public health impact. We urge you to extend the eviction moratorium to keep renters stably housed during the pandemic, and to address the moratorium’s shortcomings by improving and enforcing the order.”

One level deeper: The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently published a report on COVID-19 housing protections. It concluded that eviction moratoriums at the federal, state, and local levels reduced eviction filings during the pandemic, but some eligible renters may not have benefitted from the recent federal moratorium.

GAO's analysis of 63 jurisdictions found that the median rate of eviction filings was about 74 percent lower in the last week of July 2020—when a moratorium included in the CARES Act expired—than in the same week in 2019. Eviction filings remained lower throughout 2020 (relative to 2019) but gradually increased during a separate moratorium ordered by the CDC in September 2020.

During this moratorium, jurisdictions without separate state or local moratoriums experienced larger increases in eviction filings, which suggests that some renters may not fully understand how to use the CDC moratorium (that is, by completing required documentation).

The GAO found that although the CDC extended its moratorium through March 31, 2021, it has taken few steps to promote awareness and understanding of the moratorium and its requirements.

What to watch for: If the CDC does issue an extension, expect more effort into promoting the awareness of the moratorium and additional lawsuits challenging the CDC's order. Implementation of the federal eviction ban has been inconsistent. Either some renters aren’t aware the moratorium exists, or others who have sought to take advantage of it have encountered stiff opposition from landlords.