A new eviction ban from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now covers Wayne County.
The new two-month ban, issued late Tuesday, affects counties across the country where the transmission of COVID-19 is considered to be “high” or “substantial.”
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More than half of Michigan counties fall under these categories, based on the CDC’s Aug. 5 data. Wayne, Washtenaw and Monroe are now listed as having substantial levels of transmission. Earlier Wednesday, those three counties were listed as “moderate,” falling below the transmission level required to be covered by the eviction freeze.
“This fluidity of coverage will make implementation and enforcement of the new order interesting and challenging,” said Jim Schaafsma, a housing attorney with the Michigan Poverty Law Program, in an email Wednesday morning.
The 36th District Court Wednesday night said that the city of Detroit falls under the CDC’s moratorium.
“Effective immediately, no residential evictions will proceed for nonpayment of rent in the City of Detroit,” the court announced.
The CDC had indicated that its previous nationwide eviction freeze, which expired July 31, would be the final extension of a ban on residential evictions. However, the trajectory of the pandemic has shifted as the delta variant spreads, the new order says, triggering the targeted ban.
“A surge in evictions could lead to the immediate and significant movement of large numbers of persons from lower density to higher density housing at a time in the United States when the highly transmissible Delta variant is driving COVID-19 cases at an unprecedented level,” the order reads.
Tenants in counties with high or substantial transmission who meet income requirements, face a loss of income, are trying to pay rent and submit a declaration form to their landlord are covered by the moratorium.
If a county that’s not currently covered sees transmission levels go up before Oct. 3, then the eviction moratorium applies. If areas see transmission levels go down for 14 consecutive days, then the local ban is no longer in effect unless virus patterns change.
Matthew Paletz, CEO of Paletz Law, a Troy-based firm that represents landlords and property owners expressed frustration and confusion about the new moratorium.
The CDC’s moratorium on eviction has created “an extreme financial hardship” for landlords, Paletz said Tuesday.
“The landlords are really having to bear a lot of the burden of this,” he said.
His clients have been working with their tenants to try and get federal rent aid and there’s enough relief available without enacting another moratorium, he said.
“They still have mortgages to pay, they still have property taxes to pay. They still have maintenance obligations,” he said of landlords. “How are they possibly going to be expected to do this when they have renters that have not paid rent in however long the moratorium has been in place. How can we expect them to do that? It’s simply untenable.”
The ban comes as pressure from progressive Democrats mounted on President Joe Biden to take action as a previous moratorium lapsed. A back and forth ensued between the Democratic-controlled House and the administration, where Biden called on Congress to extend the moratorium and then House leaders urged the president to do the same.
Legal questions remain.
Previously, the administration said, legally, its hands were tied. In late June, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court allowed the previous eviction moratorium to remain through the end of July. Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the time said any further extension would require congressional approval.
Biden on Tuesday said the new ban buys more time for states and cities to release emergency rent aid dollars, even as potential legal challenges to the new order make their way through the courts. Nationally, federal rent aid has been slow to get to people.
Michigan has spent about $110 million of the $622 million allocated to the state as of Monday, according to the Michigan State Housing Authority, the agency responsible for allocating the dollars through housing agencies across the state.
Free Press staff writer Kristi Tanner and USA Today contributed to this report.
Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA.