Line drawing of person leaving home with baggage

The CDC announced on September 1 a moratorium on residential evictions nationwide through the end of the year. While it falls short of what activists have asked for, it is a welcome relief to many. This order comes in the wake of massive political unrest, a spike in evictions and homelessness, and a looming wave of evictions working their way through the courts, brought on by millions of people losing income in the COVID crisis.

In Columbus alone, there have been hundreds of eviction hearings per week for the last month, with eviction courts being moved to the Convention center to allow for COVID precautions and to handle the increased workload. Activists have been working overtime, trying to get information, assistance, and masks to people facing evictions in crowded hearing schedules.

According to Ali Malesick, the Columbus DSA Housing Committee Chair, a lot of this work will likely need to continue. "[The moratorium] doesn't stop any evictions for anything that doesn't involve non-payment, and tenants still have to know this is a thing and show up with the correct paperwork proving their hardship." They also noted that the order doesn't go into effect until the 8th, and activists are still figuring out what this order means for their work. "It would be my guess that we may have to switch to providing info to tenants about how to make sure they apply for this correctly and, honestly, that they even know about it."

DSA's National Housing Justice Commission (@dsa_housing on twitter) tweeted a thread giving some guidance to local activists on what the order means and how it impacts their work. They seem to concur with Ali's thoughts, tweeting that local activists should canvass their neighborhoods to inform neighbors, as "this moratorium will only work if tenants are aware of it." They also include a criticism of the order, saying, "[the moratorium] does NOT cancel rent or convert rental debt into consumer debt that tenants cannot be evicted for in future, so people who cannot pay will still have to deal with a backlog. DSA continues to believe cancelling rent is the only just solution to the COVID housing crisis."

Others have similar criticisms. In a story from NPR the CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition is quoted as saying "While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed."

So this order could spell disaster in the future for tenants struggling to pay rent now. But it does give thousands of renters, as well as lawmakers, something they desparately need in a crisis: time.


Matt Ellis is a local worker in Columbus and a graduate of OSU.