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Jan. 22, 2021, 12:31 a.m. EST

Biden administration extends nationwide eviction moratorium

Jacob Passy

U.S. President Joe Biden formally requested that officials extend the nationwide bans on evictions and foreclosures hours after his inauguration.

Biden asked the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider extending the federal eviction moratorium until at least March 31, 2021.

Rochelle Walensky, the new CDC director, subsequently announced that she had extended the moratorium upon Biden’s request, calling it a “protective public health measure.” Public-health officials have warned that evictions could lead to people living in more crowded settings, including shelters, which could hasten the spread of the coronavirus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health,” Walensky said. “It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.”

Biden also requested that the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development consider extending their moratoria on foreclosures for federally guaranteed mortgages and deadlines for forbearance requests until that same date.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency had already extended the foreclosure and eviction moratorium for loans backed by Fannie Mae (OTC:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTC:FMCC) until Feb. 28.

Separately, Biden has called on Congress to pass legislation to provide more money for rental assistance and to extend the eviction moratorium until the end of September. The CDC first issued the nationwide ban on evictions last September in an effort to stave off a tidal wave of homelessness. As the Biden transition team noted before his inauguration, one in five renters and one in 10 homeowners are behind on their monthly housing payments.

Extending the eviction moratorium will also give renters more time to apply for and receive billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance that lawmakers passed in December.

However, consumer advocates and industry officials have warned that more support is needed for the nation’s renters. The rental assistance that was passed in December fell far short of the $100 billion that housing experts estimated was needed.

Moreover, advocates have cautioned that the existing eviction moratorium is imperfect. Gaps in the way the ban was written mean that landlords can still pursue evictions against some tenants, and a lack of enforcement has meant that many people who should be protected have not been. As a result, thousands of households across the country have lost their homes , putting them at greater risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus.

Link to MarketWatch's Slice.