WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Bypassing Congress amid gridlock over the next coronavirus relief package, the White House has moved to prevent evictions during the pandemic.
“It’s important to provide this relief to families all around the country,” White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said. “It is in the public health interest to stop people being evicted. We don’t want people having to go to shelters or other group gatherings and really risk being exposed.”
President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to halt nearly all evictions until the end of the year. Effectively immediately, the order delays — not forgives — late payments. To qualify, renters must make less than $99,000 annually, prove they have lost income due to the pandemic and have no other housing options.
“It is a measured step but it is a necessary step to support families,” Morgenstern said.
He said the move goes further than an eviction moratorium Congress previously instituted and that about 40 million Americans will be protected.
Property owners say the policy leaves them out in the cold. They say landlords who can’t collect rent but must still pay mortgages and other expenses will bear the brunt.
“It’s largely what we call the ‘mom-and-pop’ people who are out there owning these (rental properties),” Doug Bibby, the president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, said. “I think it’s going to have some of them filing for bankruptcy.”
Calling the White House’s move shortsighted, he said Congress must pass relief that helps tenants and landlords.
“Come up with a plan that can keep renters’ ability to meet their obligations,” Bibby said.
“The administration’s certainly supportive of that,” Morgenstern said.
The National Multifamily Housing Council said it supports Democrats’ push to include $100 billion in rental assistance in the next stimulus package. Republicans have suggested a fraction of that figure.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, said in a Wednesday statement that “President Trump has finally acknowledged what Democrats have been saying for months: that our nation’s impending eviction crisis is a grave threat to families, public health, and the economy…
“But his executive order fails to provide the rental assistance that is also needed for renters to pay their bills and stay in their homes,” Brown’s statement continues. “Without emergency rental assistance renters — and their landlords — will fall further and further behind with each passing month. President Trump and Senate Republicans need to come back to the table to negotiate with Democrats in good faith to provide the assistance families need to get through this crisis — something they should have done months ago.”
If the White House can’t reach a deal with lawmakers, Bibby said it should expect lawsuits to block the president’s order. The White House said it is confident the order will hold up in court.