Federal judge lifts national eviction ban

An eviction notice in Los Angeles.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich on Wednesday threw down the national eviction moratorium, potentially putting millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes two months earlier than expected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has banned most evictions across the country since September. Protection is slated to expire in late January, but President Joe Biden extended it to April and later to June.

About one in five renter in the US is behind on their payments due to the coronavirus pandemic, and states are struggling to pay out more than $ 45 billion in rental support.

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Housing advocates have said the national ban is necessary to fend off an unprecedented displacement of Americans that could worsen the pandemic once the country turns a corner.

Researchers have found that continued evictions in certain states between March and September caused 433,700 cases of Covid-19 and 10,700 additional deaths in the U.S. before the CDC ban went into effect nationwide.

At least two other federal judges have questioned the CDC’s authority to ban evictions. And landlords have criticized the policy, saying they couldn’t afford to continue housing people for free.

Friedrich’s decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, appointed to court by former President Donald Trump in 2017, is a victory for the property owners who challenged the CDC’s moratorium.

It’s not yet clear whether the ramifications of the decision will be widespread, said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. She had hope on Wednesday that it wouldn’t be like that.

“Several court rulings have tried to break the moratorium, but all have had limited application,” said Yentel. “Although this judgment is more stringent than the previous ones, it is likely to have an equally limited application, affecting only the plaintiffs who brought the case.”

Housing lawyers urged the Justice Department to quickly appeal the ruling and the Biden government to continue enforcing the moratorium.

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