Updated May 5, 2021 - Health

Federal judge overturns CDC's eviction moratorium

A man in uniform leans down to speak to a woman huddled while sitting on the stairs

Maricopa County constable Lenny McCloskey speaks with a renter after evicting her from a hotel for non-payment on October 2, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Justice Department is appealing a federal judge's decision to vacate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's temporary federal eviction moratorium, which had been extended multiple times since being enacted by the Trump administration last fall.

Why it matters: The nationwide halt on most evictions due to the pandemic was seen as a temporary fix for millions of renters put at risk of losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The CDC under the Biden administration had sought to extend the eviction moratorium through June 30.
  • D.C. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled Wednesday on the side of the plaintiffs, who alleged that the CDC overstepped its authority by extending the eviction moratorium — which was first included in the March CARES Act passed by Congress — to all residential properties nationwide.

What they're saying: "The pandemic has triggered difficult policy decisions that have had enormous real-world consequences. The nationwide eviction moratorium is one such decision," Friedrich writes in an opinion.

  • "It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic."
  • "The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not."

The other side: Brian Boynton, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ's civil division, said in a statement that the CDC's eviction moratorium "protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses."

  • “Scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone," he added.
  • “The department has already filed a notice of appeal of the decision and intends to seek an emergency stay of the order pending appeal."

Housing and Urban Development secretary Marcia Fudge said at a press conference Wednesday that the Biden administration has targeted billions of dollars of vouchers for those at risk and for cities to invest in housing.

  • “We know we have put enough money in the system through the rescue plan that people should come out of this June 30th, at least current[ly], and so that in itself is going to allow us hopefully to keep people in their homes, as well as those people who actually have homes through FHA or through the federal government," she said.

Between the lines: Some landlords were still sidestepping the CDC's order to halt evictions by ousting tenants for violations other than rent nonpayment, housing advocates have noted.

Read the full opinion.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the DOJ statement.

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