Learn What the Biden Administration Is Doing to Prevent Evictions and Curb Homelessness
While there has been much ado online about the possibility that the Biden Administration might re-enact the lifesaving 2020 eviction moratoriums, there is no evidence of this in recent proposals. What is present in upcoming legislation is an emphasis on other renter protections. Read on to learn how White House representatives intend to protect renters from eviction in the future now that moratoriums are history.
2020’s international health crisis was unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times. For a brief moment, the world stood unmoving. Restaurants and cafes were shuttered. Movie theaters sat empty. And in this unprecedented time of isolation, there was little room for anything other than reflection. With fresh eyes, we saw harsh realities that were already present or on the horizon, realities like the nationwide increase in homelessness.
In response to the public outcry and widespread panic, several temporary safeguards were put in place to prevent even more homelessness which was projected to present itself as an “avalanche of evictions.”
One of those temporary safeguards was the eviction moratorium, which legally banned evictions while America dealt with the upheaval caused by shutdowns.
What Were the Eviction Moratoriums, and Did They Prevent Homelessness?
The federal eviction moratorium made it temporarily illegal to evict tenants based on nonpayment in most states. To qualify for the eviction ban, tenants experiencing financial hardship were required to send letters of declaration to their landlords and apply for emergency rental assistance, also known as ERA. The Biden Administration estimated that 80%-90% of renters fell under these protections during the crisis.
Data from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas projects that moratoriums reduced evictions by a rate of more than half, or 51% to be precise. Yet even with these new protections in place, thousands of renters still filed for eviction protection, and homelessness by way of eviction persisted.
The programs were effective in some ways and lacking in others. The most glaring flaw of the moratoriums was in their being temporary. With homelessness creeping around us at all sides, some commentators have suggested Biden might bring these eviction bans back into play.
The Biden-Harris Administration Has Proposed a Newfangled Renters Bill of Rights. Thus Far, It Does Not Contain an Eviction Moratorium
The White House acknowledges that 35% of America is comprised of renters. In the face of skyrocketing rental rates and astronomical inflation, this population needs new protections.
On July 27, 2023, the Biden Administration rolled out a proposal that did not contain a moratorium but did contain some new tactics for preventing evictions. Among them are:
- A mandatory 30-day notice for all evictions
- An irrevocable tenant’s right to legal counsel in the case of an eviction filing
- The right to appeal an eviction judgment
- A grace period is in place for rental arrears
- Access to eviction diversion and grievance programs and more
While the proposed bill of rights places precedence on negotiation over legal proceedings, many landlords will likely lean in favor of evictions anyway. (This seems particularly likely given how they recently behaved when they filed thousands of evictions while it was illegal to do so).
While any renter protections are a welcomed step in the right direction, it’s important to note that more than 5 million rental households are currently in arrears, and the average delinquent renter is almost four months behind. In light of this information, it’s easy to see how a 30-day notice would not serve to save most people from the pitfall of homelessness through eviction.
CEO and president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition Diane Yentel Suggests Enacting Multiple Pandemic-Era Programs
In a candid interview with PBS reporters, Diane Yentel of the NLIHC lauded pandemic-era eviction reduction programs.
While she did not mention moratoriums specifically, she spoke at length about emergency rental assistance and the tremendous success of the 500 programs created by that program alone. She added that several protections should be enacted simultaneously to prevent eviction by filling the gaps.
“So there’s a number of ways that we can fill that gap,” she explained. “We can fill it through short-term emergency rental assistance programs, through longer-term rental assistance, through preserving and building more apartments that are affordable to the lowest income people, and by creating and enforcing really robust tenant protections. But it’s going to require increased political will at all levels to be able to get the solutions at the scale needed to truly address this challenge.”
Urge Your Legislators to Support Permanent Renter Protections
Safeguards put in place during the 2020 pandemic saved many individuals and families from possible homelessness and financial ruin. The problem is those policies are now gone.
With a shortage of 7.3 million affordable homes nationwide and an unprecedented housing crisis growing by the second, permanent renter protections must be enacted immediately. That avalanche of evictions still looms on the horizon, threatening homelessness as the next pandemic. Please urge your legislators to protect renters from homelessness by way of eviction and rent burden today.