Joe Biden Won't Extend Eviction Moratorium, Asks Congress to do so as 3.6M Face Removal

President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday that he would have extended the federal eviction moratorium due to the spread of the Delta variant, but is unable to do so, calling on Congress to extend it in his place.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 6.4 million American households were behind on rent by the end of March. As of July 5, the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey reported roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. were facing eviction within the next two months.

Biden called on "Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay."

The Supreme Court ruled against allowing further extensions of the moratorium, which the Biden administration cited as its reason for being unable to extend it without Congress' approval.

"Given the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability," the White House said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Evictions protest
President Joe Biden said he is unable to extend the eviction moratorium past Saturday, and called on Congress to extend it in his stead as 3.6 million Americans face eviction. Above, Steven Leidner and other tenants of the Hamilton on the Bay apartment building protest eviction notices on June 08, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The moratorium was put in place put in place last September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The court mustered a bare majority, 5-4, last month to allow the eviction ban to continue through the end of July. One of those in the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, made clear that he would block any additional extensions unless there was "clear and specific congressional authorization."

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had said in June this would be the last time the moratorium would be extended when she set the deadline for July 31. It was initially put in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and into shelters.

Housing advocates and some lawmakers have called for the moratorium to be extended, due to the increase in coronavirus cases and the fact so little rental assistance has been distributed.

Congress has allocated nearly $47 billion in rental assistance that is supposed to go to help tenants pay off months of back rent. But so far, only about $3 billion of the first portion of $25 billion has been distributed through June by states and localities. Some states like New York have distributed almost nothing while several have only approved a few million.

"The confluence of the surging Delta variant with 6.5 million families behind on rent and at risk of eviction when the moratorium expires demands immediate action," Diane Yentel, executive director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said. "The public health necessity of extended protections for renters is obvious. If federal court cases made a broad extension impossible, the Biden administration should implement all possible alternatives including a more limited moratorium on federally backed properties."

The trouble with rental assistance has prompted the Biden administration to hold several events in the past month aimed at pressuring states and cities to increase their rental assistance distribution, coax landlords to participate and make it easier for tenants to get money directly.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta also has released an open letter to state courts around the country encouraging them to pursue measures that would keep eviction cases out of the courts. On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled a tool that allows tenants to find information about rental assistance in their area.

Despite these efforts, some Democratic lawmakers had demanded the administration extend the moratorium.

"This pandemic is not behind us, and our federal housing policies should reflect that stark reality. With the United States facing the most severe eviction crisis in its history, our local and state governments still need more time to distribute critical rental assistance to help keep a roof over the heads of our constituents," Democratic U.S. Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri, Jimmy Gomez of California and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts said in a joint statement.

But landlords, who have opposed the moratorium and challenged it repeatedly in court, were against any extension. They have argued the focus should be on speeding up the distribution of rental assistance.

This week, the National Apartment Association and several others this week filed a federal lawsuit asking for $26 billion in damages due to the impact of the moratorium.

The NAA "has long held that eviction moratoria are fundamentally flawed policies, leaving renters saddled with insurmountable debt and rental housing providers unfairly holding the bag despite unprecedented efforts to keep their residents housed over the past 18 months," Bob Pinnegar, the president and CEO of the NAA, said in a statement.

Joe Biden eviction moratorium
President Joe Biden said he is unable to extend the eviction moratorium past the end of the month, and called on Congress to extend it in his stead. In this photo, Biden speaks during a visit to the Lehigh Valley operations facility for Mack Trucks in Macungie, Pa., Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Matt Rourke/AP Photo