By MICHAEL CASEY
BOSTON (AP) — Housing advocates around the country staked out courthouses and held rallies Wednesday, calling on the incoming Biden administration to extend and strengthen the current federal ban on evictions.
President Donald Trump’s directive, implemented in September by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was extended until the end of January. Given the pandemic is still ongoing, advocates argue tenants should have protections for the next several months and that the ban should be expanded beyond only tenants who cannot pay their rent.
“Today, was an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the people,” said Alan Tanner, a minister at St. Luke’s Christian AME Zion Church who spoke at a rally in Boston, one of 17 on Wednesday in 14 states.
Several dozen tenants, advocates and small landlords gathered outside a housing court in Boston, chanting “Housing is the Cure” and holding signs including “Eviction Free Zone” and “Ban Utility Shutoffs.” They marched to the nearby John F. Kennedy Federal Building to call on federal action to address evictions. About a dozen cars also circled the housing court, honking their horns.
“We need regulation and legislation that is going to prevent evictions,” he said. “We need an extension of the moratorium. We need something more strict and stern than even than the eviction ban, something that is not temporary and will last through the duration of the pandemic.”
Bans on eviction were used early on in the pandemic by states and cities to keep tenants housed and and avoid a spike in homelessness. But with most of those expired, the federal ban is the only remaining protection preventing the more than 23 million renters from being evicted.
Expectations are high that one of the first things Joe Biden does when taking office will be extending that CDC eviction order. Advocates are also pressing him to include tens of billions of dollars in rental assistance in the next coronavirus relief bill. That would be on top of the $25 billion approved in the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress in December.
“We’re calling on President-elect Biden on his first day, his first hour to sign a new executive order implementing a new extended strengthened enforced eviction moratorium for the duration of the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, said.
“When he comes into office, the current federal eviction moratorium is set to expire 11 days later. It is literally impossible for the $25 billion of emergency rental assistance to get to the tenants and small landlords who need those funds,” she continued. “The eviction moratorium has to be extended in order to continue to create protection for tenants while states and localities work to get emergency rental assistance out to tenants who need it most.”
The organizers behind Tuesday’s protests, Right To The City Alliance, also said Congress needs to move to cancel any rent or mortgage debt related to the pandemic. Along with a rally and march in Boston, protesters built a living room in front of the CDC headquarters in Atlanta and a mariachi band played outside the home of a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member.
“Millions of families, most of them people of color who are also frontline workers, are living in fear of ending up on the street month to month even as this pandemic continues to kill us,” Kamau Walton, senior organizer for communications with the Right To The City Alliance, said in a statement. “This isn’t just about housing, this is about protecting public health.”
Biden has repeatedly talked about wanting to extend the moratorium until the end of the pandemic. Details from his transition team are expected in the days and weeks ahead.