Federal eviction moratorium
Alison Johnson of the Housing Justice League speaks during a rally outside the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge the extension of the federal eviction moratorium due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 13 January 2021. (ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

In Blow to Minority Groups, Texas Judge Rules Eviction Moratorium Unconstitutional

With a global pandemic raging on and millions of people out of work or struggling to make ends meet because of business closures or loss of stable income, the government’s ban on evictions — proposed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — was supposed to ease fears and keep families from worrying that they might end up homeless. But a judge in Texas has now declared the eviction moratorium unconstitutional. 

Catherine Thorbecke of ABC News reported that “J. Campbell Barker, a Trump-nominated judge in the Eastern District of Texas, issued the 21-page ruling Thursday, [Feb. 26] in response to a lawsuit from a group of landlords and property managers.”

In his ruling, Barker wrote: “The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium,” noting that similar actions didn’t occur during either the Spanish Flu pandemic or during the Great Depression. “The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our nation’s history until last year.”

Declaring the proposed eviction moratorium unconstitutional, Barker finally concluded: “Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution.”

“The Trump administration announced the federal eviction moratorium through an order from the CDC last September in response to the pandemic,” Thorbecke reported. “It was set to expire at the end of January [2021] but has been extended through the end of March.”

The original moratorium was intended to help individuals reporting income of less than $99,000 or a couple who made less than $198,000. 

“The CDC’s eviction moratorium, which Congress extended last December, protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton said in a statement. “By preventing people from becoming homeless or having to move into more-crowded housing, the moratorium helps to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Although statements from the CDC and the Department of Justice were not immediately available following Judge Barker’s ruling, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Diane Yentel, urged the CDC to take immediate action.

 

“Renters, don’t panic: THE MORATORIUM IS STILL IN EFFECT,” Yentel tweeted. “The judge did NOT issue an injunction. But he may in near future. The CDC must appeal immediately.”

According to Thorbecke, Moody’s Analytics and the Urban Institute has estimated that up to 10 million renters are behind on paying rent and risk being evicted. “Moreover, the typical delinquent renter is almost four months and $5,600 behind on monthly rent and utility payments as of January,” she said.

In another survey conducted by a coalition of advocacy groups including Color of Change, the National Employment Law Project, the Time’s Up Foundation Impact Lab and the Worker Institute at Cornell ILR, researchers found that minority groups were the most at-risk for possible eviction with 42% of Black workers and 39% of Latinx workers (vs. just 21% of white workers) expressing at least some level of concern that their household could face eviction or foreclosure in the coming months.

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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