Quick thoughts on eviction moratoria

Surprising no one, the Supreme Court has now found that the CDC eviction moratorium is beyond the scope of the CDC’s powers and effectively blocked it. (Technically, they denied an application to stay, thus directing enforcement of a lower-court ruling. But the opinion makes clear that the majority backs that reasoning on substance, not just technical grounds re when a stay is appropriate.)

While that effectively ends the federal ban, there are many states and localities with eviction moratoria that are still in effect — at least for now. Some but not all of those laws have provisions that are legally infirm for the same reasons that part of NY’s ban was struck down. Others are gradually ending.

From a legal perspective, the opinions and dissents are all worth reading with an open mind; there are good arguments that the CDC overreached, and good arguments that courts should consider it more before blocking the moratorium. In my personal political view, I really wish the focus had been on getting the money out to people so the evictions would be stopped not because of a moratorium but simply because landlords were getting paid and tenants weren’t racking up massive arrears that stick with them and cause problems regardless of a moratorium. There is more than $40 billion allocated specifically for rental assistance (to say nothing of unemployment insurance payments that have also been slow to distribute) that is still sitting there instead of going to the people who are facing eviction. We would have needed a moratorium for several months, because getting that money disbursed is no easy task. But this far out, it seems to me that at least some of that energy expended on demanding repeated extensions of the moratorium (even after noting that it was probably unlawful) should instead have gone into mandating and enforcing procedures to disburse the funds that were allocated (especially since we have models of some localities that managed to do so effectively). Some of that started this week, but the money was allocated last year. The fuss should be over that, rather than moratoria.