Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman hit the nail on the head with, “There’s nothing that does so much harm as good intentions.” Exhibit A is yet another eviction moratorium extension by Joe Biden’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If you’ve lost count of the number of extensions from different government agencies, you’re not alone. If you’re a landlord looking for any rent money in order to pay your mortgage, property tax, and utilities, Joe Biden and the Democrats have basically decreed it’s T.S. (tough situation) for you.
There are so many things wrong with allowing people to live rent-free in perpetuity. Government eviction moratoriums are misguided, immoral, and worse—illegal and unconstitutional. Let’s look at these one at a time.
First, while the Supreme Court did not hand down a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of eviction moratoriums, they appeared poised to do so. Justice Kavanaugh noted the moratorium was due to expire in a matter of weeks anyway. Thus, he did not join four other justices who sought to rule against the CDC’s illegal order on the merits. But what Kavanaugh did write was key: “In my view, clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.” But Congress did not act. Joe Biden’s CDC just went ahead and extended the free housing yet again. Will it ever end?
A reading of the 5th amendment to the U.S. Constitution all but states that government cannot take away landlord pay and property. “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In addition, Article I section 10 reads, “No state shall pass a Law impairing the obligation of contracts.” Rental agreements are contracts. Landlords promise housing. Tenants promise to pay. The contract is voluntary, and the amounts and terms are agreed to mutually at the start.
So many landlords across the country haven’t received a dime, some for over a year. Even government programs to compensate them have been riddled with paperwork complexity and regulations, and all for a mere pittance of assistance. Government red tape.
Second, these policies are misguided. Indeed, in a pandemic, temporary measures (i.e., a few months) to keep people in their homes had broad bipartisan support. No one favors throwing people into the streets. But when government picks winners and losers, nasty unintended consequences happen. By favoring tenants over landlords for so long, far fewer housing units will be offered up for rent in the medium and long term. What current owner would want to go through this again? Many will sell. And prospective investors? They’ll choose not to risk their money in rental units when there’s no guarantee of payment. There are other, safer, and more certain places to get a better return on money.
So, who gets hurt? Middle and upper-income people? No. They can afford to buy. It’s poor and working-class folks. Without an adequate supply of decent rental units, that population will be left essentially homeless. And government overreach from misguided Democrat moratoriums will be to blame for the next housing crisis.
Lastly, eviction moratoriums are immoral. A plethora of recent government programs have actually encouraged sloth, nonwork, and ignoring bills. And before you ask, “well what are tenants to do?” it is worth asking, “what are landlords to do?” They’ve drawn down or depleted their savings. They’ve asked friends and relatives for help. Charities, churches, and non-profits can help tenants, but few dole out funds for landlords. A wave of bankruptcies awaits.
The pandemic as it related to the economy was in 2020. Not now.
Three rounds of stimulus payments sent $3,200 per person to all but the wealthiest. There are over 9 million job openings. Wages are up. It’s past time to pay rent and for government to get out of the way.
Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for AMAC. He previously taught high school economics for 15 years.