Monday, May 10, 2021

U.S federal judge strikes down CDC eviction ban

 Federal Judge Strikes Down Moratorium on Evicting Renters | New York Times - Glenn Thrush:

May 5, 2021 - "A federal judge on Wednesday struck down the nationwide moratorium on evictions imposed by the Trump administration last year and extended by President Biden until June 30.... The decision, by Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is the most significant federal ruling on the moratorium yet, and follows three similar federal court decisions.

"The Justice Department immediately filed an appeal, and requested an emergency stay on the order pending a decision by the higher court. Late Wednesday night, Judge Friedrich agreed to put her ruling on hold until May 12 ... while making clear that the move was not a reflection of the 'merits' of the government’s request. It remains unclear how wide an impact the decision will have on renters. It does not necessarily bind state housing court judges, who rule on eviction orders, and two other federal courts have upheld the moratorium, adding to the confusion about its fate....

"The moratorium was enacted under the Public Health Service Act of 1944, which gives the federal government the power to impose quarantines and other measures to deal with health emergencies. In a 20-page decision, Judge Friedrich, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority under that law when it carried out Mr. Trump’s order last summer to impose the moratorium.

"'The question for the court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the C.D.C. the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium?' wrote Judge Friedrich. 'It does not.'

"The case was brought in November by the Alabama Association of Realtors and a group of real estate agents in Georgia who claimed the moratorium shifted the burden for rent payments from the tenants to landlords at a time when many owners have been struggling to meet their own expenses. The moratorium has had a substantial effect. Despite the sharp economic downturn created by the pandemic, eviction filings declined 65 percent in 2020 over the usual annual rate, according to an analysis of court data by the nonprofit group Eviction Lab.

"Housing analysts warned that Wednesday’s ruling could embolden more landlords to begin eviction proceedings against tenants before the federal government can disburse $45 billion in emergency housing assistance appropriated by Congress.... Four months after Congress approved its first tens of billions of dollars in emergency rental aid, only a small portion has reached landlords and tenants, and in many places it is impossible even to file an application....  "Owners of residential apartment buildings have long argued that the moratorium is based on legally shaky ground, and questioned the constitutionality of tethering a major intervention in the nation’s housing market to a federal statute intended to stop the transmission of disease....

"If the moratorium has been polarizing in the courts, it was one of the few pandemic policies that united Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. The CARES Act, passed in March 2020 with Mr. Trump’s support, included a 120-day moratorium on evictions from rental properties participating in federal assistance programs or underwritten by federal loans. On Aug. 8, 2020, Mr. Trump extended and broadened the moratorium through an executive order, leading to the C.D.C.’s action. Shortly after taking office, Mr. Biden extended the moratorium.... On Wednesday, Jen Psaki, Mr. Biden’s spokeswoman, told reporters the administration would fight to uphold the moratorium....

"Most states have enacted their own eviction freezes beyond the action taken by Washington. On Monday, New York State lawmakers passed legislation that would extend a statewide moratorium on residential and commercial evictions through Aug. 31."

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