A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it imposed a federal eviction moratorium.
The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., meaning there likely won’t be any immediate impact on the ban, which in March was extended through the end of June.
Opponents of the moratorium, including the National Association of Realtors, welcomed the decision and said the solution was rental assistance, not a ban on evictions.
“This prevents two crises — one for tenants, and one for mom-and-pop housing providers who do not have a reprieve from their bills,” the president of the realtors association, Charlie Oppler, said in a statement.
“With rental assistance secured, the economy strengthening, and unemployment rates falling, there is no need to continue a blanket, nationwide eviction ban.”
The Alabama and Georgia associations of realtors were among the plaintiffs in the case.
The eviction ban was put in place last year out of concern that having families lose their homes and move into shelters or share crowded conditions with relatives or friends during the pandemic would further spread the virus.
Proponents of the ban argue the virus is still a threat and many people are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. Nearly 4 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
The eviction moratorium “protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses,” Brian M. Boynton, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a statement announcing the department’s decision to appeal the court ruling.
“Scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone,” he added.
Congress has allocated more than $45 billion to rental assistance, but much of that hasn’t reached tenants.
The ruling Wednesday is just the latest court decision on the moratorium.
Landlords in several states have sued to scrap the order, arguing it was causing them financial hardship and infringing on their property rights. They remain opposed to any extension, saying it does nothing to address the financial challenges facing renters and landlords.
There are at least six prominent lawsuits challenging the authority of the CDC ban.
So far, three judges have sided with the ban and three have ruled against it, with all cases currently going through appeals.
One judge in Memphis declared the CDC order unenforceable in the entire Western District of Tennessee.
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