The Trump administration announced an order on Tuesday to bar evictions for most renters for the rest of the year.
The order, put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the action was needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to avoid having renters wind up in shelters or other crowded living conditions.
The moratorium would go further than the eviction ban under the CARES Act, the pandemic response legislation that covered as many as 12.3 million renters in apartment complexes or single-family homes financed with federally backed mortgages. That provision expired in July, and negotiations on Capitol Hill to renew aspects of the CARES Act have been fruitless.
Testifying in front of the House’s special select committee investigating the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the order a “very, very significant action” and differentiated it from a rental assistance program, which would be more costly and require legislation.
“Since we don’t have that, the president’s using executive authority, which will allow for a moratorium so that people who are impacted by this don’t get thrown out of their rental homes,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
House Democrats have proposed providing up to $100 billion in assistance to enable renters to pay landlords.
To apply for the new moratorium, tenants will have to attest to a substantial loss of household income, the inability to pay full rent and best efforts to pay partial rent. Tenants must also stipulate that eviction would be likely to leave them homeless or force them to live with others at close quarters. The order provides for criminal penalties for violations, but it does not relieve tenants of their ultimate obligation to pay rent.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition, a policy group focused on affordable housing, welcomed the order but said further action was needed to provide financial relief to struggling renters. The National Multifamily Housing Council, which represents landlords, denounced the moratorium and said it addressed the financial needs of neither renters nor landlords.