Biden Urges Extension of Eviction Ban, Days Before It Ends

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden urged Congress to extend a moratorium on home evictions, just two days before it’s set to expire, after the pandemic took a turn for the worse in the U. S. and economic growth in the second quarter missed forecasts.

“The president calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay,” the White House said in a statement.

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Biden also asked the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs to extend the eviction ban through the end of September for Americans living in federally-insured, single-family properties.

In recent days, some Democratic lawmakers and housing advocates have called for extending the eviction moratorium beyond the July 31 deadline. But it isn’t clear Congress can act in time, even if there’s enough political support for an extension.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees that the moratorium should be extended and is “exploring all options to do so,” spokeswoman Mia Ehrenberg said.

House Democrats are considering legislation to continue the moratorium until Dec. 31, one senior aide said. The aide asked not to be identified because negotiations are ongoing.

“I think at bare minimum, it needs to be to the end of the year,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading liberal, said in an interview.

She faulted the White House for waiting until the moratorium’s expiration was imminent to act, and for proposing what she said was too short an extension.

“The Biden administration suggesting that it should be to the end of September is absolutely unacceptable,” she said. “What they have done and what this is, is reckless and irresponsible. And so now we’re scrambling -- but it could have been avoided with better communication and frankly more forthright leadership from the White House”

But an extension until 2022 looks unlikely to pass the Senate.

“In the middle of the summer, putting people out of their homes is not appropriate,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said. “I think a short-term extension makes sense, but we do have to return to the market.”

As the expiration deadline has grown closer, national housing advocates have started to call more attention to the number of Americans in jeopardy of losing their homes. About 7.4 million households are behind on rent, according to the latest Census Bureau survey. About 3.6 million say they’re either somewhat or very likely to face eviction in the next two months.

“People are bracing to get eviction notices on Monday, no question,” said Sophia Lopez, deputy campaign director at the Action Center on Race and the Economy, a group that supports local organizers across the country.

Earlier this week, Congress held a hearing on the upcoming expiration of the eviction moratorium. Advocates for the extension said the delta variant only added to the sense of urgency.

“The necessity of an extension is abundantly clear given the newly surging delta variant, low vaccination rates in communities with high eviction filings, and cities and states’ slow rate of distributing ERA to tenants who need it to stay stably housed,” Diane Yentel, chief executive officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, wrote in her Tuesday testimony.

Court Opinion

The Supreme Court has upheld several extensions of the moratorium throughout the pandemic, including a one-month extension through July 31 that the White House called a “lifeline” for rent relief distribution. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who backed the extension to allow more time for assistance to be disbursed, wrote in his opinion late last month that any further extensions would require legislation.

The White House, in its statement today, blamed the Supreme Court for no longer making such an extension possible.

“President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”

House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters challenged the decision.

“We need to go ahead and go back to the courts and press them to please allow this administration to extend the moratorium on evictions,” Waters said.

The expiration is set to come after U. S. growth missed forecasts in the second quarter. The effects of supply-chain constraints reverberated through the economy and took the shine off one of the biggest gains in consumer spending in decades.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 6.5% annualized rate following a revised 6.3% pace in the first quarter, the Commerce Department’s preliminary estimate showed Thursday.

(Updates with Ocasio-Cortez remarks beginning in 7th paragraph)

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