WASHINGTON — A pandemic-related US government ban on residential evictions was set to expire at midnight on Saturday, threatening to force millions of American renters out of their homes.
On Friday, the US House of Representatives adjourned without reviewing tenant protections after a Republican congressman unanimously blocked a bid to extend it until October 18. Democratic leaders said they lacked enough support to give the proposal a formal vote.
The US Senate was in session on Saturday, but leaders gave no indication they would consider extending the eviction ban. The White House has clarified that it will not extend the protection unilaterally, arguing that it does not have the legal authority to do so.
More than 15 million people in 6.5 million American homes are behind on rental payments, collectively owing more than $20 billion to landlords, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said Saturday that “in every state in this country, families are sitting around their kitchen tables right now, trying to figure out how to avoid devastating, disruptive and unnecessary evictions.”
Democratic Representative Corey Bush and others spent Friday night outside the US Capitol to draw attention to the issue.
Bush, who was evicted three times and lived in his car with his two children before his career in politics, spent a sleepless night on the Capitol Steps protesting the end of the eviction moratorium.
Bush remained outside the Capitol on Saturday afternoon and urged Congress, President Joe Biden or the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the moratorium from ending.
“Today, by midnight, if nothing happens, if no other action is taken from the House, or the Senate, or the administration, seven million people will be at risk of being ousted,” said the Congresswoman. “I’ve been there myself.”
Landlord groups opposed the moratorium, and some landlords have struggled to keep up with mortgage, tax and insurance payments on properties without rental income.
An eviction moratorium has largely been in place since the end of March 2020 under various measures. The current ban by the CDC came into force in September 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic. It has been extended several times, most recently until Saturday.
The CDC said in June that it would not issue further extensions. The agency declined to comment on Saturday.
Congress approved $46.5 billion in rental relief, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but only $3 billion has been disbursed to renters.
Biden, who unsuccessfully urged Congress to act, on Friday called on state and local governments to immediately disburse funds due to the end of the moratorium.
Some states opted to extend the eviction moratorium beyond Saturday. Federal agencies that finance rental housing on Friday urged owners of those properties to take advantage of assistance programs and avoid evicting tenants.