The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday approved a one-month extension of the national moratorium on evictions, scheduled to expire on June 30, as officials emphasized this will be the final time they will push back the deadline.
The moratorium, instituted by the agency last September to prevent a wave of evictions spurred by the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic and extended earlier this year, has significantly limited the economic damage to renters and sharply reduced eviction filings.
On Thursday, the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, signed the extension, which goes through July 31, after a week of internal debate at the White House over the issue.
Local officials and tenants rights groups have warned that phasing out the freeze could touch off a new, if somewhat less severe, eviction crisis than the country faced last year during the height of the pandemic.
White House officials agreed and pressed reluctant C.D.C. officials to extend the moratorium, which they see as needed to buy them more time to distribute $21.5 billion in emergency federal housing aid funded by a pandemic relief bill passed this spring.
Administration officials, speaking on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, unveiled a range of other actions intended to blunt the impact of lifting the moratorium and the lapsing of similar state and local measures.
Among the most significant is a new push by the Justice Department, led by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, to coax local housing court judges to slow the pace of evictions by forcing landlords to accept federal money intended to pay back rent.
In a letter to state court officials, Ms. Gupta urged judges to adopt a general order requiring all landlords to prove they have applied for federal aid before signing off on evictions, while offering federal funding for eviction diversion programs intended to resolve landlord-tenant disputes.
Other initiatives include a summit on housing affordability and evictions, to be held at the White House later this month; stepped-up coordination with local officials and legal aid organizations to minimize evictions after July 31; and new guidance from the Treasury Department meant to streamline the sluggish disbursement of the $21.5 billion in emergency aid included in the pandemic relief bill in the spring.
White House officials, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said recently that the one-month extension, while influenced by concerns over a new wave of evictions, was prompted by the lag in vaccination rates in low-income communities.
Ms. Walensky was initially reluctant to sign the extension, according to a senior administration official involved in the negotiations. She eventually concluded, the official said, a flood of new evictions could lead to greater spread of the virus by displaced tenants,
Forty-four House Democrats wrote to Ms. Walensky, on Tuesday, urging them to put off allowing evictions to resume. “By extending the moratorium and incorporating these critical improvements to protect vulnerable renters, we can work to curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.
Groups representing private landlords maintain that the health crisis that justified the freeze has ended and that continuing the freeze even for an extra four weeks would be an unwarranted government intrusion in the housing market.
“The mounting housing affordability crisis is quickly becoming a housing affordability disaster fueled by flawed eviction moratoriums, which leave renters with insurmountable debt and housing providers holding the bag,” said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, a trade group representing owners of large residential buildings.