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Eviction Moratorium: A Postmortem on Private Property | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on August 11, 2021

A dangerous precedent has been established. If eviction moratoriums are deemed a lawful intervention, why shouldn’t the seizing of private property be used to quell future “crises”?

by Michael Milano

At the beseeching of congressional Democrats and the fanatical urgings of Nancy Pelosi, who called the extension of the federal eviction moratorium a “moral imperative,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new nationwide ban on evictions for counties with heightened levels of coronavirus community transmission. This latest CDC order comes in spite of President Biden’s candid admission that “the bulk of the constitutional scholarship says it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster.” In The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard attests that the “right to contract is strictly derivable from the right of private property.” If private property is a keystone for prosperous societies and a fundamental tenant of common law, what happens in the aftermath of the vitiation of millions of private contracts?

A brief recap. In March 2020 under the CARES Act, an eviction moratorium was applied to all dwelling units participating in federal assistance programs. Invoking the Public Health Service Act of 1944, the CDC broadened the moratorium to cover all rental properties countrywide in September 2020. The CDC’s unprecedented unilateral expansion was rationalized as a reasonable measure to combat the spread of COVID-19 by preventing crowded living conditions that would stem from mass evictions and by facilitating self-isolation. This decree, initially slated to end after three months, had been extended on five separate occasions. Rent protection programs have additionally been enacted at the state level. In some states these eviction moratoriums are scheduled to expire over the upcoming weeks. In others, they are set to continue indefinitely.

In consonance with the ethos of a free society, the United States Constitution is a document grounded in natural rights, conceived to protect private property. The Founding Fathers did not include a universal pandemic exception. The Fifth Amendment states that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” but does permit private property to be expropriated with just compensation (e.g., eminent domain). The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees due process protection at the state level. According to the Contract Clause, no state “may pass a law impairing the obligation of contracts.” During the eviction moratorium however, contractual obligations were voided, property was despotically taken with no compensation, and liberty was deprived without a hearing.

For many painstaking months, landlords have been stripped of their rights to freely use their property, while being forced to fulfill legal duties for squatters. Courts at the district level ruled the CDC’s edict unconstitutional, yet the moratorium persisted. In June 2021, the Supreme Court chimed in, allowing the eviction moratoriums to stand in the case of Alabama Association of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Services. However, Justice Brett Kavanaugh clearly stated that the CDC exceeded its authority, that congressional authorization would be required for a moratorium extension, and that his deciding vote was cast only due to the fact that a few weeks remained before the moratorium was set to expire. Nevertheless, in open defiance of the Supreme Court ruling, the CDC issued their slightly scaled back, 60 day ban on evictions, at the beginning of August.

A dangerous precedent has been established. If eviction moratoriums are deemed a lawful intervention, why shouldn’t the seizing of private property be used to quell future “crises”? Will the current fallout include landlords abandoning the industry, or will rents be raised to offset uncertainty risks as speculated by Jeff Deist? How do members of a society continue to confidently form agreements when the trust associated with contract enforcement erodes?

When taking this all into account, proponents of strict constitutionalism are inevitably forced to reconcile their philosophy in the face of a swelling regulatory state, led by power mongering aspiring autocrats, who perceive the founding documents as ignorable relics. None of this should be overly surprising given that politicians and bureaucrats are perversely incentivized to perpetually expand the size of government. In spite of illusions of separated powers, regardless of whether the reigns are wielded by Democrats or Republicans, when the state is the ultimate arbiter, even in cases involving itself, justice becomes an empty abstraction distributed to gain political favor.

Applying one set of ethical standards to the citizenry and another to the state is hypocrisy and downright immoral. In a system that preserves property rights, a creditor may grant a debtor forgiveness solely for obligations between the two parties. As Lysander Spooner wrote in No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority:

A man’s natural rights are his own, against the whole world; and any infringement of them is equally a crime; whether committed by one man, or by millions; whether committed by one man, calling himself a robber, or by millions calling themselves a government.

Michael Milano is an entrepreneur in the midst of penning his first novel. He earned his PhD from The Ohio State University. His areas of interest include Austrian economics, crypto-assets, evolutionary biology, and stoicism.

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Erie Times E-Edition Article-CDC issues new eviction moratorium until Oct. 3

Posted by M. C. on August 5, 2021

How did the Center for Disease Control get the unconstitutional power to perform Rent Control?

That is the job of congress. The pathetic group that allows this usurpation of their power.

Josh Boak, Lisa Mascaro and Jonathan Lemire


WASHINGTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a new moratorium on evictions that would last until Oct. 3, as the Biden administration sought to quell intensifying criticism that it was allowing vulnerable renters to lose their homes during a pandemic.

The new moratorium could help keep millions in their homes as the coronavirus’s delta variant has spread and states have been slow to release federal rental aid. It would temporarily halt evictions in counties with

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“substantial and high levels” of virus transmissions and would cover areas where 90% of the U.S. population lives.

The announcement was something of a reversal for the Biden administration after it said that a Supreme Court ruling prevented a moratorium. But the choice to impose a new measure in the face of legal uncertainty was also a win for the progressive lawmakers who pushed the White House to do more to prevent some 3.6 million Americans from losing their homes during the COVID- 19 crisis.

President Joe Biden stopped short Tuesday afternoon of announcing the new ban on evictions during a press conference at the White House, ceding the responsibility to the CDC.

The extension could help heal a rift with liberal Democratic lawmakers who were calling on the president to take executive action to keep renters in their homes as the delta variant of the coronavirus spread and a prior moratorium lapsed over the weekend.

The new policy came amid a scramble of actions by the Biden team to reassure Democrats and the country that it could find a way to limit the damage from potential evictions through the use of federal aid. But pressure mounted as key lawmakers said it was not enough.

Top Democratic leaders joined Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who has been camped outside the U.S. Capitol, the freshman congresswoman who once lived in her car as a young mother leading a passionate protest urging the White House to prevent widespread evictions.

“For 5 days, we’ve been out here, demanding that our government acts to save lives,” she tweeted. “Today, our movement moved mountains.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was a day of “extraordinary relief.”

“The imminent fear of eviction and being put out on the street has been lifted for countless families across America. Help is Here!” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.

Administration officials had previously said a Supreme Court ruling stopped them from setting up a new moratorium without congressional backing, saying states and cities must be more aggressive in releasing nearly $47 billion in relief for renters on the verge of eviction.

The president said he sought input from legal scholars about whether there were options and said the advice was mixed, though some suggested, “It’s worth the effort.” Biden also said he didn’t want to tell the CDC, which has taken the public health lead in responding to the pandemic, what to do.

“I asked the CDC to go back and consider other options that may be available,” he said.

The CDC has identified a legal authority for a new and different moratorium for areas with high and substantial increases in COVID-19 infections.

Biden also insisted there is federal money available – some $47 billion previously approved during the COVID-19 crisis – that needs to get out the door to help renters and landlords.

“The money is there,” Biden said.

The White House has said state and local governments have been slow to push out that federal money and is pressing them to do so swiftly.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen briefed House Democrats Tuesday about the work underway to ensure the federal housing aid makes it to renters and landlords. She provided data so that lawmakers could see how their districts and states are performing with distributing the relief, according to a person on the call.

The treasury secretary tried to encourage Democrats to work together, even as lawmakers said Biden should act on his own to extend the eviction moratorium, according to someone on the private call who insisted on anonymity to discuss its contents.

Yellen said on the call, according to this person, that she agrees “we need to bring every resource to bear” and that she appreciated the Democrats’ efforts and wants “to leave no stone unturned.”

As the eviction crisis mounted, the White House frequently said Biden was doing all he could under legal constraints. The administration had repeatedly resisted another extension because the Supreme Court appears likely to block it. When the court allowed the eviction ban to remain in place through the end of July by a 5-4 vote, one justice in the majority, Brett Kavanaugh, wrote that Congress would have to act to extend it further.

As the initial moratorium expired, the administration emphasized many Americans will be able to stay housed with money already approved for aid and other efforts underway. The White House noted that state-level efforts to stop evictions would spare a third of the country from evictions over the next month.

Still, Biden faced stinging criticism, including from some in his own party, that he was was slow to address the end of the moratorium. Some people were at immediate risk of losing their homes.

Pelosi had called the prospect of widespread evictions “unfathomable.” The Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other progressive lawmakers intensified pressure on the White House to issue an immediate extension.

Late last week, Biden announced he was allowing the ban to expire, pushing Congress to act, but lawmakers were unable to swiftly rally the votes as even Democrats questioned prolonging the eviction ban for a few more months.

The CDC put the initial eviction ban in place as part of the COVID-19 response when jobs shifted and many workers lost income. The ban was intended to hold back the spread of the virus among people put out on the streets and into shelters.

Democratic lawmakers said they were caught by surprise by Biden’s decision to end the moratorium, creating frustration and anger and exposing a rare rift with the administration. The CDC indicated in late June that it probably wouldn’t extend the eviction ban beyond the end of July.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the powerful chair of the Financial Services Committee, has been talking privately for days with Yellen and urged the treasury secretary to use her influence to prod states to push the money out the door. But Waters also called on the CDC to act on its own.

After the CDC’s announcement Tuesday, Waters released a statement thanking Biden “for listening and for encouraging the CDC to act! This extension of the moratorium is the lifeline that millions of families have been waiting for.”

Supporters of Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., camp with her outside the U.S. Capitol on Monday to protest the end of the eviction moratorium that expired Saturday. The CDC issued a new moratorium Tuesday. JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AP

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