The federal eviction moratorium is unconstitutional, a Texas federal judge ruled Thursday, joining state owners who have argued that the U.S. government has no power to stop evictions.
U.S. District Judge John Barker, a representative of former President Donald Trump, said he would not issue an injunction and instead expected the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lift the moratorium.
“The federal government cannot say that it has ever before used its power over interstate trade to impose a moratorium on the eviction of residential buildings,” Barker wrote in his ruling. “At no point in our nation’s history did the federal government claim such power until last year.”
The CDC’s order to halt evictions from tenants who had attempted to obtain rental support, among other things, originally expired in late December but was extended to January thanks to a second stimulus package approved by Congress. The moratorium was extended to March by President Joe Biden after he took office.
In the absence of a restraining order from Barker, attorneys on Friday disagreed over the immediate ramifications of the verdict.
Robert Henneke, general counsel litigation director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which filed the lawsuit, said the federal government should abide by Baker’s decision without needing an injunction.
“The ruling declares the order unconstitutional,” said Henneke. “The Justice Department takes the position that it will hold on to a judgment without having an injunction against it.”
He described the CDC eviction moratorium as harmful for landlords and owners.
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement that tenant protections remain in place for the time being, but the ruling is still harmful. Tens of millions of people could lose their homes if the eviction moratorium is lifted, she said.
“(Barker) has not issued an injunction so the moratorium remains under protection, but the ruling and its implications are deeply worrying,” Yentel said in the statement. “Evictions risk lives, drive families deeper into poverty and strain our already overburdened public health systems.”
Christina Rosales, associate director of Texas Housers, said the moratorium was a safety net for renters across the country during the pandemic and removing it would lead to an eviction crisis.
According to Rosales, Texas Housers is hoping the CDC will appeal the ruling to avoid a housing crisis and ensure people’s safety and housing while the country is still dealing with the pandemic.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to a January survey by the US Census Bureau, more than 1.6 million Texans had little or no confidence in paying rent for the next several months.
Since the pandemic hit the state last year, a number of local, state and federal programs have been put in place to help residents during the state’s shaky economic recovery. State officials said in January they wanted to start a $ 1.3 billion rental assistance program for Texans struggling to keep up with housing benefit payments. That the new program followed a separate government attempt has been criticized for its limited scope and after many landlords refused to participate.