Image via Shutterstock Elizabeth Warren's eviction moratorium plan
Image via Shutterstock

“Housing is a human right and an absolute necessity to keep families safe during this crisis, and Congress must step in now to help keep people in their homes.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation Monday that would implement a nationwide eviction moratorium for renters. The Protecting Renters From Evictions and Fees Act would shield people from eviction due to nonpayment until March 27, 2021. The bill aims to expand the CARES Act eviction moratoriums, which expire next month, and cover more low-income renters.

“Renters who have lost their job or had their income reduced shouldn’t have to fear losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic,” Warren told Vox. “Housing is a human right and an absolute necessity to keep families safe during this crisis, and Congress must step in now to help keep people in their homes.”

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Across the U.S., temporary eviction moratoriums introduced in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic are expiring, leaving millions at risk for homelessness ahead of a second wave of infections. The situation is exacerbated by an economic crash that has yielded the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression. 

Although the majority of renters were able to make full or partial rent payments in June, things are expected to worsen. An Urban Institute survey found that about one in five renters saw a household member lose a job in the last two months.

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Congress passed the CARES Act, the first massive stimulus package, back in March, which included a 120-day moratorium on evictions for renters in federally assisted housing or in homes with federally backed mortgages. That covered about 12.3 million households, just under a third of the 43.8 million rental units in the US, according to the Urban Institute.

States and municipalities followed suit, instituting their own eviction policies with differing deadlines and rules. Now, the CARES Act protections are set to expire on July 25, 2020, and many of the localized protections are running out of time as well.   

Warren’s bill would preserve those safeguards for an extra eight months and extend the benefits to almost all renters. It would formalize the current patchwork of state eviction protections under a national standard. The legislation would also prevent landlords from tacking on additional late fees and require a 30-days notice of eviction after the moratorium ends, effectively adding another month onto the timeline.

“It’s a short-term emergency move to help prevent people from losing their homes, but ultimately, you need to be able to pay the rent,” Alex Schwartz, a professor of urban policy at the New School, told Vox.