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White House announces efforts to help renters, homeowners

Biden administration to convene conference on eviction diversion

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky wears a mask as she arrives at the Capitol on April 15 before testifying at a House panel about the pandemic.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky wears a mask as she arrives at the Capitol on April 15 before testifying at a House panel about the pandemic. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The White House on Thursday unveiled new actions the Biden administration will be taking to mitigate evictions and foreclosures.

The new steps came just after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a further one-month extension of the COVID-19 pandemic eviction moratorium would be the last.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” the CDC said in a statement. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky formally signed what is intended as the final extension of the moratorium on Thursday, moving its end from June 30 to July 31.

Among the White House announcements was that the foreclosure moratorium for mortgages backed by the federal government would also be extended through July 31, which includes those supported by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Veterans Affairs Department.

“Today, we’re taking our next all-hands-on-deck effort to help … meet the goal of preventing unnecessary evictions,” an administration official said. “Each step we’re announcing is about actual funding flexibility and cooperation needed to meet the CDC’s essential challenge to us, using these 30 days to do everything possible to mitigate the harmful evictions and prevent a flood of evictions when the moratorium ends.”

Part of the effort will be to bring together a variety of stakeholders, from local mayors to judges to work on eviction diversion efforts. The Justice Department, through a new letter from Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, is calling on state court judges to take advantage of eviction diversion programs.

“We will be doing a White House conference that will focus specifically on encouraging major cities across the country to put together the coalitions that need to be in place to ensure that we have these anti-eviction diversionary policies working as quickly as possible to prevent any potential for a flood of evictions,” the official told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

A second administration official said that once the various moratoria expire, there will be additional payment reduction options for homeowners that will be detailed in the coming weeks.

None of the administration officials on the call would get into specifics of possible concerns about further extending the CDC moratorium and whether it could complicate the legal standing of such orders in public health emergencies.

The administration will be assuring, through the Treasury Department, that state and local governments are aware that they are authorized to use emergency rental assistance funds to help bankroll eviction diversion plans and related legal services.

The White House is also stressing that a variety of government agencies, like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Agriculture, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will be enforcing the 30-day notice requirement for landlords to evict tenants from properties with federally backed mortgages.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, was among the lawmakers praising Thursday’s announcement of the eviction moratorium extension.

“The eviction moratorium is providing essential protections to millions of renters during the pandemic. It’s time for state and local grantees to remove unnecessary red tape and make sure that the funds Congress provided to help families stay in their homes get out to them quickly,” Brown said in a statement.

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