The US Supreme Court on Thursday allowed evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic, a move that threatens to render thousands homeless.
The pandemic-related federal moratorium was challenged by landlords and real estate trade associations from Alabama and Georgia.
In a 6-3 conservative majority, with the three liberal judges dissenting, the court has said in an unsigned opinion that the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions relying on a decades-old statute, giving it the authority to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination.
The court said: “It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.”
It also asked the Congress to specifically authorise the statute if the federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said that the court was not justified in ending the moratorium so quickly, especially when Covid-19 infections are peaking. He added that the outcome of the case was not clear, as pointed out by the majority.
Justice Breyer wrote: “The public interest strongly favours respecting the CDC’s judgment at this moment, when over 90 per cent of counties are experiencing high transmission rates.”
He pointed out a potential threat of rise in Covid-19 infections due to a surge in evictions, citing the CDC.
The White House has said it is disappointed by the court’s decision and will need urgent action from state, local governments, landlords and Cabinet agencies to prevent evictions.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “The Biden Administration is disappointed that the Supreme Court has blocked the most recent CDC eviction moratorium while confirmed cases of the Delta variant are significant across the country.”
Ms Psaki warned that the decision puts families and communities at a greater risk of Covid-19.
The court’s first instance of disapproving with the moratorium emerged in June this year when it indicated that the authority to CDC stood on a shaky legal ground. Such a policy, the court had said, needs to be enacted by Congress and not by an executive branch in a unilateral imposition.
It approved a request by the challengers who sought the removal of moratorium by the US CDC —expected to have run till 3 October. The challengers pointed out that the law on which CDC relied did not allow it to implement the moratorium.
The Biden administration on 3 August had extended the eviction moratorium three days after the prior one expired.
The decision by Supreme Court is likely to affect nearly 92% of US counties with “substantial” and “high” levels of Covid-19 transmission.