New Orleans Another last-minute move by President Biden and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has ordered a suspension of evictions for another sixty days in a Hail Mary pass after time had run out on the last moratorium. This one relies on equating housing with public health under the strain of the surging delta variant in areas where the virus is surging. Given that the Covid-19 spread is almost everywhere, there are estimates that this extended moratorium is likely to cover 90% of the American population. All of this is more a stopgap than a solution.
The government had promised the Supreme Court that it did not need to rule on the earlier eviction moratorium earlier because there were only weeks left and it would be moot. It did end, briefly, so perhaps this is not a “balance of powers” equivalent of contempt of court, but it is also unlikely to engender a warm, fuzzy feeling among the Court’s conservative majority, who might feel that they were simply victims of a long con. Furthermore, judging by many local venues that the ACORN Tenants Union monitors, there have been long lines of landlords in local courts before and since the end of July filing papers to evict tenants, so that will all have to be sorted out, and, likely lead to a fair amount of displacement. Reports indicate that a lot had already been happening as tenants saw their prospects narrowing and moved ahead of potential eviction to not have the experience place a barrier on future rentals. One silver lining that may have prevented an even worse surge of evictions may have been landlords waiting to see if the long-promised and hardly spent federal relief money might finally flow to tenants paying them for their trouble without going to court. What a mess!
President Biden’s plea for governors and mayors to extend the moratorium was clear evidence that he saw his back against the wall. Some states and cities have already acted, but for the most part, his call went unanswered. Saving the day may have been the multi-day sit-in on the US Capitol steps by first-term progressive Congresswoman Cori Bush from St. Louis, Missouri. Bush might have been one of the few to be sitting in Congress who had ever been evicted, and it hadn’t been just once and some kind of mistake. She had been there and done that. She pulled out her sleeping bag and lawn chair and hunkered down for days and nights like the fabled postman in all kinds of weather, putting the heat on with help from housing advocates and allies everywhere until Biden and the CDC crafted another extension.
Will it last? Who knows?
Nonetheless, Bush may have shown us the way when no moratorium is in the offing, and that’s to organize the evicted tenants to not run and hide wherever, but to make their protest public at city halls, statehouses, and of course the public areas of their complexes and in the streets in front of their apartments. This is the way that personal problems become political issues. There’s going to be a day when the rent will be due, and if Plan A was to pay and that didn’t work, Plan B needs to be to protest, and Bush may have just proven once again that mass action and protest might just do the job.