The Biden administration is developing a new eviction moratorium following criticism from liberal lawmakers after a previous ban on evictions was allowed to expire over the weekend.
The new moratorium is expected to be more targeted than the blanket prohibition that was in place previously, according to reports from the New York Times and the Washington Post that cited unnamed sources. It will focus on areas of the country that have been hardest hit by the delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
President Biden sidestepped questions about his administration’s plans for a new moratorium during a press conference on Tuesday, but told reporters that the “CDC will have something to announce to you the next hour to two hours.”
An unnamed aide cited by the New York Times claimed the new moratorium is expected to protect 90% of renters nationwide. The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The political pressure became untenable for the White House,” said Ben Koltun, director of research at Beacon Policy Advisors, a policy research firm based in Washington, D.C. Koltun added that the administration “didn’t have enough defenders among House Democrats.”
The situation surrounding the eviction moratorium exposed rifts between the Biden administration and congressional Democrats, and even among Democrats in the House leadership. Progressive lawmakers, including Cori Bush of Missouri and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both Democrats, criticized the White House and some of their congressional colleagues for not extending the moratorium at a time when the delta variant of COVID-19 was leading to rising case counts across the country.
Consumer advocates have argued that federal lawmakers need to do more to prevent a homelessness crisis from forming as the pandemic continues, which could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus. Studies suggest that as many as 6.5 million Americans are still at risk of eviction because of unpaid rent debt.
“Congress and the Biden administration must fix the gaps in our federal housing safety net — gaps that brought us to the brink of an eviction tsunami during a global pandemic,” Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in an email Friday ahead of the previous moratorium’s expiration.
The prior moratorium was established in September under the Trump administration and had been extended multiple times. Most recently, the Biden administration extended the ban in June to give state and local lawmakers more time to distribute billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance. At the time, the White House signaled it would be the final extension, but much of the $46 billion in assistance remained unspent as of the end of July.
Last week, the House of Representatives failed to vote on a measure to extend the moratorium, owing to pressure from centrists Democrats who were against an extension. Any bill in the House would likely fail in the Senate, though, since it would need a 60-vote majority to pass under the filibuster rules.
The White House previously suggested it could not extend the moratorium again, citing a recent order from the Supreme Court. Biden reiterated those concerns during Tuesday’s press conference, saying that a moratorium is “likely to face obstacles.”
The nation’s highest court didn’t take up a recent challenge to the previous moratorium because it was already set to end, while signaling that it would not abide another extension.
“As Biden and the White House see it, there is a real risk that taking executive action could backfire,” Koltun said. “Not just in the order being struck down by the courts but having future public health emergency orders curtailed.”