More than 2,200 organizations have written a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to extend the national eviction moratorium.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a ban on evicting struggling renters during the pandemic last September, and that protection is scheduled to expire at the end of this month.
Advocates say a wave of evictions is inevitable if the ban is allowed to lapse.
“Evictions put lives at risk and strain our already overstretched public health systems,” the organizations, including AARP, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in the letter dated March 15.
They also cited research showing that evictions have led to as many as 400,000 additional coronavirus cases.
Property owners have criticized the ban and say landlords can’t afford to continue housing people for free.
“Short-term policies like eviction moratoria leave renters accruing insurmountable debt and jeopardize the ability for rental housing providers to provide safe, affordable housing,” said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association.
However, housing experts say allowing the eviction ban to expire before rental assistance goes out to people is bad policy. Congress has allocated more than $45 billion in aid for renters, but it could take a few months for the money to be disbursed.
“Eroding eviction protections before rental assistance reaches those most at risk and just as we are approaching a turning point in the pandemic only undermines mitigation strategies and escalates the crisis, making recovery that much more untenable,” said Emily Benfer, a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University.
The organizations called on the Biden administration, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to not only extend the moratorium, but to strengthen it, as well.
At least two federal judges have questioned the CDC’s power to ban evictions. And despite the moratorium, many landlords have still moved forward with evictions.
The Eviction Lab at Princeton University has identified more than 180,000 evictions in just the five states and 19 cities it tracks, since the CDC announced its national moratorium in September.
“Under the CDC moratorium, renters are only protected if they know about it and take affirmative steps to be protected,” the organizations wrote. “As a result, corporate and other landlords continue to evict renters before renters know about the moratorium protections or by finding reasons for eviction other than nonpayment of rent.”
Around 1 in 5 renters said they were not current on their rent in January, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities. Closer to 36% of Black renters said they were behind.
The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was considering extending the ban.