Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Demonstrators protest evictions in New York City

Activists hold a protest against evictions near City Hall on August 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

'Congress Must Act,' Says Cori Bush as Supreme Court Ends Eviction Moratorium

"We didn't sleep on those steps just to give up now," said the Missouri Democrat.

Jake Johnson

Millions of people across the U.S. are once again at imminent risk of losing their homes after the conservative-dominated Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the Biden administration's eviction moratorium, siding with a coalition of landlords and real estate companies that challenged the critical lifeline.

"We must immediately do everything possible to keep people in their homes. This is a matter of life and death."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal

In an unsigned opinion, the 6-3 conservative majority ruled (pdf) that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have the authority to implement the eviction moratorium, the latest version of which was put in place earlier this month in response to pressure from progressive lawmakers and activists.

Writing for the three dissenting liberal justices, Stephen Breyer slammed the high court's conservatives for rushing their massively consequential decision on the eviction ban without a "full briefing and argument." The moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent was originally intended to run through October 3.

"The public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC's judgment at this moment, when over 90% of counties are experiencing high [coronavirus] transmission rates," Breyer wrote, noting that the real estate coalition's earlier argument against the eviction moratorium—that Covid-19 infections were trending downward—no longer holds.

The high court's ruling came just a day after the U.S. Treasury Department released figures showing that 89% of rental assistance funds approved by Congress have not yet been distributed—a problem that some critics have attributed to the faulty design of the federal aid program.

Housing experts and advocates estimate that total rental debt in the U.S. currently amounts to around $21.3 billion, with households that are behind on rent owing $3,300 on average.

Congress has approved $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance.

In a statement late Thursday, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) called the Supreme Court's ruling "disastrous" and said that "Congress must act immediately to prevent mass evictions."

Earlier this month, Bush and other progressive lawmakers camped out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building to protest the expiration of a previous CDC eviction moratorium. Days after the demonstration began, the CDC authorized a new eviction ban that covered around 90% of the country.

"We are in an unprecedented and ongoing crisis that demands compassionate solutions that center the needs of the people and communities most in need of our help," Bush said Thursday. "We didn't sleep on those steps just to give up now... I urge my colleagues to reflect on the humanity of every single one of their unhoused, or soon-to-be unhoused, neighbors, and support a legislative solution to this eviction crisis."

While some cities and states still have moratoria in place, the Supreme Court's decision means that millions of renters who are behind on payments are set to lose their last remaining protections, setting the stage for a wave of evictions as coronavirus infections surge across the country.

"This is cruel and wrong," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "If the public health crisis hasn't ended, then the relief to survive it shouldn't either. We must immediately do everything possible to keep people in their homes. This is a matter of life and death."

"Congress should immediately come back into session and extend the moratorium."
—Rep. Mark Pocan

According to a recent analysis by Eviction Lab, U.S. neighborhoods with the highest eviction filing rates typically have the lowest levels of vaccination against Covid-19. In some Southern states, landlord-friendly laws and procedures allow evictions to be fast-tracked, meaning the consequences of the high court's decision could be felt in the very near future.

Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, warned that "the tragic, consequential, and entirely avoidable outcome of this ruling will be millions of people losing their homes this fall and winter, just as the Delta variant ravages communities and lives."

"Evictions risk lives and drive families deeper into poverty," said Yentel. "During a pandemic, evictions further burden overstretched hospital systems, and make it much more difficult for the country to contain the virus. Evictions have been shown to increase spread of, and potentially deaths from, Covid-19. For families and individuals, evictions are profoundly traumatizing and destabilizing. For the country, evictions are expensive. The tragic consequences of this decision will reverberate for years."

It is not yet clear what specific steps the White House and Congress—which is currently on recess—intend to take in response to the Supreme Court's ruling. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was "disappointed" by the decision and urged "all entities that can prevent evictions—from cities and states to local courts, landlords, cabinet agencies—to urgently act."

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, argued late Thursday that "Congress should immediately come back into session and extend the moratorium."

"The Supreme Court blocking the eviction moratorium while the pandemic is killing 1,000 people a day is appalling," said Pocan.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Do Better,' Say Advocates as Biden Seeks to Double Refugee Admissions

"When thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their home to find safety, and Haitians are seeking safety on the southern border, the very least the United States can do is set a resettlement goal that meets the moment."

Brett Wilkins ·

Border Patrol Accused of 'Unfathomable Cruelty' for Cracking Whips on Haitians

"It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brett Wilkins ·

As Gov. Tim Walz Proclaims 'Minnesota Climate Week,' Ilhan Omar Says 'Stop Line 3'

"The state of Minnesota simply cannot meet our carbon reduction targets if this pipeline goes through," said the Democratic congresswoman. "Our future is on the line."

Kenny Stancil ·

Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line."

Julia Conley ·

Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo