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The end of the eviction ban will allow for pandemic lockouts resume

Late Thursday, the conservative majority of the high court blocked the Biden administration's attempt to enforce a temporary ban imposed by the coronavirus epidemic. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 3.5 million Americans claim they will be evicted in the next two-months.

"We are extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court decision and ask Congress and Governor Doug Ducey to take immediate action to prevent what will likely to be tragic outcomes for thousands Arizona families," Cynthia Zwick, executive director at Wildfire, a non-profit organization that distributes government rental assistance in Arizona.

She said that "lives are literally at stake as the pandemic continues and surges and families lose their houses, especially during this period of extreme heat," referring to Phoenix’s triple-digit temperatures.

Wildfire encourages tenants to continue applying for rental assistance and to "work with their landlords in order to develop plans to make payments until the assistance becomes available", she stated.

However, some officials in the U.S. believe that the court's actions will not trigger the flood of evictions advocates anticipate.

Scott Davis, spokesperson for Maricopa County Justice Courts which handle most Arizona evictions said that he doesn't expect anything dramatic overnight. He stated that how the cases play out will depend on how landlords or their attorneys handle them and that courts are well-prepared for any eventuality.

Davis stated that "we know that eviction filings in the past 17 months have fallen about 50% compared to pre-pandemic." Will filings rebound to the norm of 100%? They will need to exceed the norm in order to compensate for the filings that landlords withheld from them during the pandemic. Some people believe there will be an overwhelming amount of cases, while others think it will be more gradual and steady. It's up the landlords to decide.

Davis stressed that no one can be expelled immediately without due process and that the cases may take several weeks to resolve in court.

According to the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin, landlords are rarely willing to evict tenants who are only a few hundred bucks behind on their rent. According to the association, the average Wisconsin eviction judgment for unpaid rental is over $2,600.

The landlord trade association stated that contrary to the dire predictions of tenant advocates, there won't be a tsunami of eviction filings either in Wisconsin or most of the country. "There won't be 11 million people suddenly homeless."

The temporary bans on evictions that have been placed by a few states, including California, are not affected by the court's decision.

Russ Heimerich, spokesperson for the state's housing agency, stated that California's eviction protections will remain in effect through September 30. People who apply for rent relief will be protected through March 2022.

It wasn't surprising that the high court made this move. Although the justices had previously allowed lockouts to continue for July, they indicated in June that they would follow this route if they were asked to again intervene. The Oct. 3 expiration date for the moratorium was set.

In an unsigned opinion, the court stated that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which imposed the moratorium Aug. 3) lacked the authority under federal law to do so without express congressional authorization. The three liberal justices voted no.

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, stated that President Joe Biden is calling upon all entities capable of preventing evictions -- including local courts, landlords and Cabinet Agencies.

Congress is currently on recess for several weeks and will not take immediate action to pass legislation.

However, key progressive lawmakers urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to pass legislation to extend the moratorium in the event of a pandemic.

One possibility is to include an evictions clause in the budget infrastructure packages Congress will review when they return from September recess.

"The impending evacuation crisis is a matter that affects public safety and health, which requires an urgent legislative solution to avoid further harm and unnecessary loss of life," reads the letter from Reps. Ayanna, D.Massachusetts and Cori Bush, D.Missouri and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D.New York. It was signed 60 times.

Pelosi stated Friday that the House was "evaluating possible legislative solutions."

Congress approved $46.5 billion in rental aid, but state and local governments have only distributed 11%, or just over $5 billion, according to the Treasury Department Wednesday.

Landlord associations blamed Congress' slow rollout of aid qualifications requirements that many applicants find cumbersome.

Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus is the president and CEO at the Arizona Multihousing Association. She said that many mom-and pop rental owners are on the verge of bankruptcy with approximately $500 million in unpaid rent statewide.

LeVinus stated that "despite such financial pressure, Arizona property owner have worked with residents in order to keep them inside their homes, keep them safe from pandemics, and to help them get eviction relief that has taken a year and half to arrive." "We strongly encourage our members to continue working with residents in order to avoid evictions.

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