Executive Order Directs Agencies to Mull Ways to Prevent Evictions

On Aug. 8, President Trump issued an executive order to address COVID-19-related challenges for renters. The order directs a number of federal agencies, including HUD and the Treasury Department, to consider actions to prevent eviction and foreclosure. It requires the secretaries of Treasury and HUD to identify any available federal funds that could be used to provide temporary financial assistance to renters because of the pandemic.

The order was executed, in part, because an eviction moratorium for sites linked to federal housing financing in the CARES Act expired in late July and hasn’t yet been extended. Specifically, the CARES Act provided a 120-day eviction moratorium for renters who received federal housing assistance, as well as renters who lived in properties in which the landlord’s mortgage is backed by the federal government, including the mortgage-bundling entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Between 30 million and 40 million people could be at risk of eviction over the next few months without an extended moratorium, according to National Low-Income Housing Coalition estimates.

Trump’s executive order doesn’t extend the moratorium. Instead, it tells executive branch officials to think about possible solutions, rather than formally impose a moratorium. Here are the key provisions of Trump’s executive order:

  • It tells the Treasury secretary and Housing and Urban Development secretary to identify federal funds that can be applied to "temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners."
  • It tells the Health and Human Services secretary and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to "consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary."
  • It tells the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency to identify "resources that may be used to prevent evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners" caused by the pandemic. As an independent agency, it’s unclear whether the president can order the agency to do anything.