Pritzker extends Illinois’ eviction moratorium after U.S. Supreme Court nixes federal version

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end President Joe Biden’s federal eviction moratorium won’t affect Illinois’ own ban — extended yet again on Friday — but housing advocates say they still face a “race against the clock” to make sure rental assistance gets to tenants in need before the state’s freeze is slated to end.

But groups representing landlords and property owners say they’re also running out of time, and the sooner the state can get back to a “normal operating system, the less damage that will be caused.”

Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois, said state and local governments have been “proactive about getting the rent assistance dollars out to assist landlords and tenants, and we have the court-based rent assistance that’s coming.” But he said his group and others “still do need some more time to make sure that people can fully access all of those resources.”

A spokeswoman for Pritzker said Friday the state’s moratorium, which was slated to end Sept. 18, would be extended to Oct. 3 — the date the federal moratorium was to end.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 126,000 Illinoisans say they’re likely to face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months.

“It’s certainly a race against the clock,” John Bartlett, the executive director of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, said of disbursing rental assistance dollars.

“If there is a significant chunk of money that still could be delivered to tenants, what’s going to happen is these tenants will end up getting evicted, they’ll be put out, some will end up in shelters, some will end up doubling up with family members,” Bartlett said.

But Paul Arena, the northwest vice president for the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association, questioned continuing the moratorium, saying “you can’t expect property owners to somehow insulate people from the reality of our life now.”

For the most part tenants are paying their rent, but as a member of the Winnebago County Board, Arena said he’s seen the challenges in making sure tenants get the rental assistance they need. Delays can occur when a tenant or landlord doesn’t provide proper documentation in a timely manner.

Apartment buildings in the South Shore neighborhood in 2018.

Apartment buildings in the South Shore neighborhood in 2018.
Colin Boyle/Sun-Times file

He said the ban on evictions has “effectively destabilized the housing market,” especially in smaller neighborhoods, where someone might own one or two smaller buildings.

“Those people are the ones suffering the great amount of hardship, those are the ones that are going to start, or have already begun, to lose their buildings. … It’s going to reduce the supply of rental property,” Arena said.

“The sooner we get back to a normal operating system, the less damage that will be caused. … I think we need to accept that this is the situation that we’re going to live with for a long time, right. I don’t think we’re going to eliminate COVID.”

Arena’s group consists of rental associations and housing providers around the state. They’ve filed suit against state officials, arguing the governor doesn’t have the authority to impose the eviction moratorium.

Arena didn’t think the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision would influence the outcome of his group’s suit, because the high court’s opinion was limited to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not having the authority to implement the federal moratorium without congressional approval.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker imposed the Illinois ban through a series of executive orders.

Michael Glasser, president of the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance, agreed the U.S. Supreme Court decision doesn’t impact Illinois. As for the state’s moratorium, Glasser said eviction “is a tool that can help us bring the parties to the table — and we need that tool.”

“There’s nothing that’s good for business in filing an eviction except being able to deliver a wake-up call saying, ‘Hey, let’s face what’s happening here,’” Glasser said. “The ability to get emergency rental assistance is great, but that’s very slow materializing, and if we feel the money is imminent, we certainly won’t evict them. But there’s instances where tenants haven’t cooperated and aren’t participating in a program, and there’s no money coming.”

After the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court released their unsigned opinion Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement, calling on “all entities that can prevent evictions — from cities and states to local courts, landlords, Cabinet Agencies” — to “urgently act” to do so.

Homes in the Logan Square neighborhood in 2018. 

Homes in the Logan Square neighborhood in 2018.
Erin Brown/Sun-Times file

Last week, Pritzker quietly extended Illinois’ eviction moratorium, pushing the enforcement of those orders to Sept. 18. A spokeswoman for the governor said the goal was to bring the state’s eviction protections in line with the federal ban.

In a Friday statement, a Pritzker spokesman said the state is “still winding down” its moratorium in order to give the renters and landlords time to utilize all available resources for relief.”

“Illinois remains a national leader in dispersing rental assistance and will continue to do so as the eviction moratorium comes to an end,” the spokesman said.

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