Last week, a group of Democratic lawmakers cited the lack of progress in a letter calling on congressional leadership to extend the moratorium through legislation, which the Supreme Court would be less likely to strike down. The Biden administration has also called on states and localities to put in place their own eviction moratoriums for at least the next two months, as New Jersey and Washington, D.C., have done.
What about landlords?
While corporate landlords have posted large profits in recent months, about 40 percent of rental units in the United States are owned by individual “mom and pop” investors, and many of them are struggling to cover their own bills and mortgage payments.
“The longer the ban continues,” Jonathan O’Connell reported for The Washington Post this month, “the more small, independent landlords — many of them senior citizens — are likely to exhaust their savings and move on” by selling their properties to Wall Street-backed and foreign investors.
Distributing the full $46.5 billion of rental assistance would help stem those losses, but the National Apartment Association, a landlord group, says even the full sum would not be sufficient to cover what landlords are owed in back rent. The group filed a lawsuit against the government late last month seeking an additional $26.6 billion.
It was pressure from landlord groups that helped sink an effort by House Democrats in July to extend the federal eviction moratorium. Even if the measure could now overcome the objections of the party’s more conservative members, it would stand very little chance of clearing the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
To break the stalemate, Gary Painter, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California, argues that Congress should create a federally financed and operated loan program. Unlike the current rental assistance program, it could offer both tenants and landlords immediate relief, and by requiring tenants to repay back rent over a 10-year period, it could win Republican support.
“At this point,” he writes, “only Washington has the scale and scope to head off a crisis whose costs have the potential to tick into the tens of billions with far-reaching, long-term impacts on renters.”