Brian Mark Weber / October 1, 2021

Where’s That Flood of Evictions?

After the CDC’s moratorium was lifted, renters are … still in their homes.

For many Americans, it’s time to pay the rent again.

That’s a frightening proposition for people months behind in their obligations to landlords. And just when it’s time to go back to work, new vaccine mandates might just keep them off the payrolls for months to come.

It didn’t have to be this way.

State governments across the country didn’t have to put millions of people out of work. They created a crisis, and they continue to make it worse for the rest of us.

As Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, once said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

One of those opportunities included allowing the Centers for Disease Control to wield power it was never intended to have when it imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in September 2020. No matter if tenants hadn’t paid rent, landlords couldn’t evict them. Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden both oversaw extension after extension, with Biden admitting the policy wouldn’t pass “constitutional muster” all the while giving it the go-ahead one more time.

Finally, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision last month that the policy exceeded the CDC’s authority and needed congressional approval. The Court’s majority opinion rebuked the Beltway bureaucrats by saying, “It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the C.D.C. the sweeping authority that it asserts.” Sweeping authority for the federal government to essentially abrogate private contracts doesn’t exist.

It’s too little, too late for landlords who’ve collectively lost literally billions of dollars in unpaid rent.

According to Howard Husock of the American Enterprise Institute, “A $2.4 billion rental assistance program aimed at helping tenants pay their landlords has given funds to fewer than 5 percent of applicants since its start in June.” In a classic case of ineptitude, the government can’t even efficiently disburse the money it allocates.

“A system that requires both tenants and landlords to complete complex forms is the enemy of both,” Husock adds. “Only $156 million has trickled out to date.” He argues: “There’s a better way: Trust the landlords. Get rid of the red tape and substitute a simple, legally binding declaration by property owners of the amount their rental income has declined — tied to a promise not to evict tenants for nonpayment.”

Any solution is better than what we have right now. As for tenants, the situation is not as bad as the Left predicted when the moratorium was lifted.

Even The Washington Post admits that: “Housing experts mentioned a slew of devastating metaphors — cliff, tsunami, tidal wave — to describe the national eviction crisis they saw coming. One month later, however, many of those same authorities find themselves wondering: Where is the cliff?”

The Post explains that the predicted wave of evictions simply didn’t happen: “In major metropolitan areas, the number of eviction filings has dropped or remained flat since the Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on Aug. 26, according to experts and data collected by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. In cities around the country, including Cleveland, Memphis, Charleston and Indianapolis, eviction filings are well below their pre-pandemic levels.”

And data provided by the Atlanta Regional Commission indicates that landlords are filing less paperwork to evict tenants than they did back in 2019 when the economy was strong and COVID hadn’t arrived.

The Left makes landlords out to be heartless misers itching to toss families out onto the streets, but many rental properties are owned by middle-class Americans who also have bills to pay. Now that the moratorium has ended, it’s becoming clear that landlords are being patient and understanding. If renters want to blame anyone, they should look no further than state and federal governments.

So far, evictions are not increasing and there is no tidal wave. But we’ve all learned — or should have learned — an important lesson: The government ruins everything it touches, and it’s time for political leaders and bureaucrats to fix a crisis they created in the first place by getting out of the way.

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