That’s the number of Supreme Court justices who voted Tuesday to keep a national eviction moratorium in place, allowing a safety net for millions of renters to remain for a few more weeks.
The court ruled, 5-4, to deny a request by a group of property managers to overturn a ban on evictions issued in September as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who cast the deciding vote, said he agreed with the landlords that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had overstepped its authority in issuing the eviction freeze. But he ruled to keep it in place anyway, saying the program would be ending soon.
“Because the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote at this time to deny the application to vacate the District Court’s stay of its order,” Kavanaugh wrote.
The CDC last week extended the moratorium, which had been set to expire Wednesday, to the end of July—the last time it will issue an extension, it says. In May a federal judge initially overturned the eviction ban, but later allowed it to temporarily stay in place pending the government’s appeal.
The federal Emergency Rental Assistance program—funded by Congress as part of the last two stimulus packages—has made more than $46 billion of aid available to renters. Groups that have opposed the moratorium, like the National Association of Realtors, have said deploying the aid is more fair than a ban because it ensures the needs of both tenants and landlords are met.
More than 3.4 million adults—out of 7.8 million who reported being behind on rent—said they are “somewhat” or “very” likely to be evicted in the next two months, according to a Census survey that was taken in mid-June and released Wednesday. The White House announced last week a number of additional measures aimed at keeping people set back by the pandemic in their homes, such as encouraging state and local courts to utilize anti-eviction diversion programs as alternatives to eviction.
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