White House orders suspension of residential evictions

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    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Tuesday it would temporarily halt residential evictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections.

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disclosed during a congressional hearing that the executive order would be issued. It runs through Dec. 31.

    “I think you’ll be quite pleased with the impact that it will have,” Mnuchin told Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who sits on the panel.

    The order estimates that 30 to 40 million renters are at risk of eviction. “A wave of evictions on that scale would be unprecedented in modern times,” it says.

    The halt was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    It does not relieve people of obligations to pay rent or preclude the collection of fees, penalties or interest as the result of the failure to pay rent or make timely housing payments.

    Congress passed a ban on evictions earlier this year, but it expired at the end of July.

    Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, issued a statement Wednesday morning calling the order problematic.

    “Not only is the eviction moratorium overly complex and likely to get bogged down in court, but it does nothing to address the fact that millions of unemployed Americans will keep falling deeper into debt as the amount of back rent they owe grows each month,” Faith said. “Eviction moratoriums have the potential to destabilize the housing market because property owners depend on rent to pay their mortgages, employees, taxes and other costs. Ultimately, the CDC’s action may only delay mass evictions once the moratorium expires.”

    The only real solution, Faith said, is for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and U.S. Congress to provide emergency rental assistance immediately.