August 27, 2021 6:07:39 pm
Written by Adam Liptak and Glenn Thrush
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Biden administration’s latest moratorium on evictions, ending a political and legal dispute during a public health crisis in which the administration’s shifting positions had subjected it to criticism from adversaries and allies alike.
The court issued an eight-page majority opinion, an unusual move in a ruling on an application for emergency relief, where terse orders are more common. The court’s three liberal justices dissented.
The decision puts hundreds of thousands of tenants at risk of losing shelter, while the administration struggles to speed the flow of billions of dollars in federal funding to people who are behind in rent because of the coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic hardship. Only about $5.1 billion of the $46.5 billion in aid had been disbursed by the end of July, according to figures released on Wednesday, as bureaucratic delays at the state and local levels snarled payouts.
The majority opinion, which was unsigned, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority.
“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant,” the opinion said. “But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”
In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that “the public interest is not favored by the spread of disease or a court’s second-guessing of the CDC’s judgment.”
The Biden administration and other moratorium proponents predicted that the decision would set off a wave of dire consequences.
The ruling also renewed pressure on congressional Democrats to try to extend the freeze over the opposition of Republicans.
But landlords, who have said the moratoriums saddled them with billions of dollars in debt, hailed the move.
“The government must move past failed policies and begin to seriously address the nation’s debt tsunami, which is crippling both renters and housing providers alike,” said Bob Pinnegar, the president of the National Apartment Association, a trade association representing large landlords.
Tenant groups in the South, where fast-track evictions are common, are bracing for the worst.