The nationwide eviction ban is a victory for our movement – but renters aren’t out of the woods yet.
The congressional relief that was keeping millions of Americans afloat expired well over a month ago. Unemployment is in double digits and coronavirus continues to spread. A vaccine is in the works, but there should be no expectation of a ‘return to normal’ anytime soon. Meanwhile a third of Americans are falling further and further behind on their housing payments, and the debt is piling up.
A new CDC order, enacted by the Trump administration in the form of an executive order, will protect millions of renters who are unable to pay rent due to coronavirus from eviction until December. We should be clear: this win was driven not only by a public health crisis, but also by the fear of more uprisings in the streets as renters are getting organized!
This relief is long overdue and could be lifesaving for many renters. But while this measure is extremely important, it is inadequate. It delays – but does not prevent – evictions, and it only extends a financial cliff for two in five renters to fall off of once expired. The order does not cancel rent, prohibit late fees, or relieve any tenants of their debts, leaving renters with huge backlogs to be paid at the end of the year. The order also allows landlords to collect all of the back rent immediately as soon as the eviction moratorium ends: it does not protect against evictions if you’re unable to pay up when time’s up.
So even while Trump & Mnuchin (the foreclosure king of the 2008 recession) are doing more for renters than most Democratic governors, this measure only kicks the can down the road. These moratoriums do nothing to address the underlying financial distress facing millions of Americans. With their red tape and expiration dates, they are not sustainable, and they will not succeed in resolving this historic housing crisis. Cancelling rent is the only solution!
While this ban is in place for now, the tsunami of evictions still looming could hit instead in the dead of winter. If tenants don’t know their rights, they could slip through the cracks and be evicted anyways. We cannot stand for this and we must continue organizing to prepare to defend our communities!