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Supreme Court Ends CDC Eviction Ban

Baltimore housing advocates and city council members at a rally earlier this month. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR
Baltimore housing advocates and city council members at a rally earlier this month. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that the CDC’s eviction moratorium is unconstitutional leaves about 129,000 Maryland households — nearly 20% of them in Baltimore City — without state or federal eviction protections.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s eviction moratorium, which protected tenants behind on rent due to the pandemic, expired Aug. 15.

When it first issued the ban earlier this month, the Biden administration said it anticipated legal challenges. Late Thursday night, the Supreme Court ruled the CDC had overstepped its authority.

Matt Hill, an attorney from the Public Justice Center, told WYPR that the ban was a last sliver of hope for many of his group’s clients.

“I woke up this morning with just a knot of dread in the pit of my stomach,” Hill said. “This small finger in the dam that was holding things together...was let loose.”

As of Friday, all Maryland counties have substantial to high transmission rates according to CDC data.

“We’re suddenly, in the middle of a COVID delta surge, going to turn maybe 5,000 families out into the streets,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”

District Court Chief Judge John Morrissey said in late July that judgments were paused on at least 4,500 failure-to-pay rent cases, due to federal and statewide protections.

Tisha Guthrie, a member of the renters advocacy coalition Baltimore Renters United (BRU), called the impending evictions a public health issue.

“We need more time to keep people housed,” she said.

The state has distributed just under 15% of $401 million in federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds to renters.

Guthrie said the state should have ensured a speedy distribution of rental assistance funds to vulnerable renters before letting moratoriums expire.

“Lifting a moratorium is strictly putting the onus on renters to address a problem,” she said. “Policymakers need to get off of their duffs and actually make policy.”

BRU and Renters United Maryland issued a joint statement Friday condemning the Supreme Court’s decision.

“This doesn’t have to happen,” they wrote. “Congress can extend the CDC Order. Governor Hogan can issue an order that pauses evictions when a rental assistance application has been filed.”

They also want the General Assembly to call a special session and are demanding funding for new access to counsel programs.

“Local elected officials can expedite dispersal of rental assistance money, implement eviction diversion programs, and Baltimore can fully fund implementation of the right to counsel in evictions law,” they wrote. “We need action, not handwringing.”

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.