Eviction Moratorium Disproportionately Affects Renters Across the Country

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By Elizabeth Fitch, Feature Editor


On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ordered a temporary halt in residential evictions through the end of the year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. [1] The agency order forbids landlords from evicting tenants due to the nonpayment of rent, which could help prevent millions of Americans from becoming homeless during a time of extreme unemployment and a virus that presents historic threats to public health. While this may come as a momentary sigh of relief for renters, an eviction moratorium is not a cure-all resolution to housing insecurity; it is simply postponing more tragedy, as expiration dates are quickly approaching. If Congress does not step up to combat this impending housing crisis, the U.S. economy is going to be at an even greater risk than the one we currently know.

Throughout the past ten months, COVID-19 has revealed the severity of many social inequities across the country. Among them, housing insecurity and the struggles that both renters and landlords face when the economy is suffering through unpredictable hardships.

More specifically, however, are the struggles that people of color face during this time due to a lingering history of racially targeted policies in the rental housing market. [2] That being said, housing insecurity and risk of eviction are crises that have affected communities of color long before COVID-19 became a threat. Renters of color face discrimination in obtaining and maintaining housing, current housing stock does not fit the needs of multigenerational families of color, neighborhoods with more racial diversity face higher rates of eviction, and people of color disproportionately experience homelessness across their lifespan. [3] This pandemic, however, not only continues to intensify these inequities, but cultivates a future of worsening inequality. [4]

By ordering a temporary eviction moratorium, the CDC has momentarily eased the threat of eviction to renters based solely on their inability to pay rent. The December 31st expiration date, however, is fast approaching, and although the country continues to endure hardships as a result of the pandemic, renters will be expected to pay what they owe. If they cannot afford to pay their rent, they will legally face the consequence of eviction once again, despite reported COVID-19 case numbers rising daily. [5]

The September 4th Order intends “to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within congregate or shared living settings, or through unsheltered homelessness; mitigate the further spread of COVID-19 from one U.S. State or U.S. territory into any other U.S. State or U.S. territory; and support response efforts to COVID-19 at the Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal levels.” [6] It requires that renters sign a declaration form stating that they meet certain eligibility requirements [7] and states, in part, the following:

Under this Order, a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies during the effective period of the Order … This Order is a temporary eviction moratorium to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This Order does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract. Nothing in this Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis, under the terms of any applicable contract. [8]

The Order was accompanied by the following CDC acknowledgement: “Housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood that people may move into close quarters in homeless shelters or other settings. These crowded places put people at higher risk of getting COVID-19.” [9]

Reports have shown that while these protections are essential, they are not nearly enough to combat the critical housing needs in communities across the country. [10] More emergency action is crucial. [11] A recent analysis of the current and expected rental shortfall in the United States estimates that renters will owe between $25 and $34 billion by January 2021 when the nationwide eviction moratorium expires. [12] These numbers do not include any interest or fees that landlords may charge – charges which are permitted by the CDC’s moratorium guidelines. [13] Based on these statistics, over 8 million households could be threatened with eviction by January 2021. [14]

Furthermore, renters of color disproportionately report being behind on rent, which suggests that a more race-conscious approach is necessary to properly address the needs of Black and Latino renters. [15] In an attempt to pay outstanding rent, those struggling are relying on their savings, retirement accounts, high interest lenders, and even credit card payments. [16] Unfortunately, these methods only promote future financial struggle, as using these sources may diminish personal emergency funds and increase debt. [17]

“The concern we have is that these effects would snowball. That [renters] would use these alternative methods to pay rent, and then that high interest becomes a vehicle for more debt to incur,” Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, illustrates. “There is a very real risk of people being forced into homelessness because they’re being forced to find alternative methods to cover their rent costs.” [18] It is clear that homelessness prevention and any new federal housing security policies need to prioritize racial disparities.

For example, Hudson River Housing, Inc., a nonprofit whose goal it is to develop and manage affordable housing in struggling communities, suggests more long term solutions such as the following: “requiring new housing developments to include a percentage of affordable units, supporting publicly funded programs that provide resources to create permanent housing for the homeless, advocating for zoning that allows for different forms of housing, such as dormitory-style units for those on limited incomes, and strengthening the ability of local government to streamline the development process and move quickly to turn vacant properties into affordable housing.” [19] Further suggestions include prioritizing community partnerships in pandemic responses, expanding protections for renters against the threat of eviction, and repealing additional barriers to obtaining temporary and long-term housing. [20]

As December 31st approaches and the nationwide moratorium expires, the country will unfortunately see millions of families struggle to maintain their housing. Without immediate action from Congress that emphasizes long-term solutions for communities of color, the future of the U.S. residential housing market will face devastating instability and inequities as renters are threatened with eviction once again.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19, Federal Register, (Sept. 4, 2020), https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/04/2020-19654/


[2] Jaboa Lake, The Pandemic Has Exacerbated Housing Instability for Renters of Color, Center for American Progress, (Oct. 30, 2020, 9:02 am), https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/


[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University, Coronavirus Resource Center, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html (last visited Dec. 24, 2020).

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supra.

[7] Lake, supra.

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supra.

[9] Lake, supra.

[10] National Low Income Housing Coalition, Housing Needs by State, NLIHC, https://nlihc.org/

Housing-needs-by-state (last visited Dec. 24, 2020).

[11] Id.

[12] National Council of State Housing Agencies, Analysis of Current and Expected Rental Shortfall and Potential Eviction Filings in the U.S., NCSHA, (Sept. 28, 2020), https://www.ncsha.org/


[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Solomon Green and Alanna McCargo, New Data Suggest COVID-19 is Widening Housing Disparities by Race and Income, Urban Institute, (May 29, 2020), https://www.urban.org/


[16] Morgan Baskin, As Eviction Bans Expire, Renters Turn to Credit Cards, Talk Poverty, (Jul. 15, 2020), https://talkpoverty.org/2020/07/15/eviction-bans-expire-renters-turn-credit-cards/.

[17] Lake, supra.

[18] Baskin, supra.

[19] Elizabeth Celaya, What the Pandemic Means for the Homeless and Housing Insecure, Hudson River Housing, Inc., (Apr. 8, 2020), https://hudsonriverhousing.org/2020/04/08/What-the-


[20] Lake, supra.

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