The Eviction “Tsunami” that Wasn’t

The Centers for Disease Control national eviction moratorium was first implemented under Trump’s administration. It was later extended and revived by Biden. They claimed that there would be an “tsunami of evictions” if the moratorium was lifted. After the Supreme Court invalidated the moratorium in August, no tsunami occurred. Yuliya Pafil, director of housing policy studies, liberal-leaning New America research Institute, and David Spievack (land use expert) have written an informative article at 538 explaining why the predictions did not work.

Experts in housing, one of whom is the author of this article have known for years that the pandemic’s economic fallout will lead to an eviction tsunami that could drive up to 40 million people from their homes.

Experts are still waiting.

The pandemic erupted in America when the worst was over. Federal, state, and local governments enacted emergency policies that temporarily banned evictions. Between August 2021 and 17-months later, two nationwide eviction moratoriums held. Some cities and states still have existing tenant protections.

The national moratorium being lifted was a warning to policymakers, landlord advocates, and housing experts. Although evictions are up four months after the national moratorium was lifted, data indicates that they have not yet seen a tsunami. Although some still believe one is on the horizon, courts are beginning to clear a backlog. However, EvictionLab, the nation’s largest tracker of eviction data shows that most evictions have reached nearly 40%. BelowHistorical average

In their article, the authors discuss how tsunami predictions are influenced by an assortment of assumptions and flawed studies. This article provides additional criticisms of studies used by advocates for a moratorium. There are reasonsArticle by Aaron Brown, Justin Monticello

However, not all housing and land-use specialists anticipated a tsunami. In my critique of the initial establishment of the moratorium in September 2020, I pointed out some reasons to be skeptical of such claims,  such as evidence that the Covid pandemic had not led to an increase in evictions to that point, including in areas that had not enacted state or local eviction moratorium.

Although it did not prevent an actual tsunami from happening, the federal moratorium could have been justified by its mere existence at that time. Be safe, rather than sorry. Even if landlords are subject to severe infringing of their property rights, eviction orders do not come with a free lunch. According to economists, they cause increases in cost and decreases in availability. Fearing that government will enforce eviction moratoria in economic downturns or other crisis, landlords will not be willing to rent to tenants at all.

This does not prove that the Supreme Court was wrong to uphold the CDC moratorium. Maybe the agency was given the power to implement this policy even though it was not a good idea. Although I think the law was strongly against this moratorium, a Supreme Court upholding it could have created a dangerous precedent. The issues are summarized in my article about the Supreme Court’s decision in this case and in earlier writings that I linked.

Note: Although the Supreme Court did not rule on all of these lawsuits, some plaintiffs were represented in the cases against the eviction ban by the Pacific Legal Foundation. My wife is a member of this organization. PLF was represented by me in an advisory role that I did not receive.