Washington, DC - This press conference and these executive orders create confusion, questions and chaos when clarity, certainty and real solutions are desperately needed by struggling Americans. The President alluded to “stopping evictions” but provided no details on which renters are protected, for how long, or under what authority. The president’s authority to establish a broad national eviction moratorium in the absence of congressional action is questionable and will almost certainly be quickly challenged in court by landlord associations. By relying on shaky legal authority, this executive order offers merely false hope, and risks increased confusion and chaos at a time when renters need assurance that they will not be kicked out of their homes during a pandemic. Even if upheld in court, this executive order would be a half-measure. And in many ways, it’s an empty shell: despite Trump declaring he would stop evictions, the EO provides no clear directive for any entity to do so. Because the purported moratorium is not paired with substantial emergency rental assistance it could, at best (and this is highly questionable), merely postpone evictions nationwide - it will not prevent them.
Economist Mark Zandi estimates that renters already owe $25 billion in back rent and could owe as much as $70 billion by the end of the year. Due to loss of jobs and wages, renters are accruing rental debt that they cannot possibly pay off. At the same time, lack of rental income places rental property owners at risk of harm. More than half of small landlords do not have access to any lines of credit to allow them to continue paying bills. In the short term, lack of rental income may result in unanticipated costs, and an inability to pay mortgages, pay property taxes, and maintain the property. In the long term, the lack of rental income places small property owners at greater risk of foreclosure and bankruptcy.
Without significant and sustained congressional action, 30 million to 40 million renters are at risk of being evicted by the end of the year. Every day of inaction puts more seniors, people with disabilities, families and others at imminent risk of losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic. The time for political games, half-measures and brinkmanship has long passed. President Trump and his administration must go back to the negotiating table to work out a comprehensive deal with Congress to prevent tens of millions of renters from losing their homes in the coming months.
Congress and the president should work together to enact legislation: to implement a national, uniform moratorium on all evictions for nonpayment of rent; provide at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance through the "Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act" and housing vouchers; and ensure $11.5 billion in emergency resources to help prevent and respond to outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness.