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Ideological Bullshit: Banning housing evictions will actually hurt low-income renters, says the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

September 17, 2021

It has been 3 weeks since the US Supreme Court ruled that the eviction moratorium is unfair to landlords and that it must come to an end soon.

To most reasonable people, people with their eyes open and a basic understanding of the current housing crisis, putting an end to the eviction moratorium is cruel and criminal, especially during a pandemic.

However, some people are ideologically driven, so no matter what kind of harm is being done to people, they will rationalize it away with their ideological perspective. 

This is exactly what a writer and staff member of the Acton Institute has done. On August 9th, Acton writer Noah Gould posted an article entitled, Banning evictions poses harm for low-income renters.

This argument says in part:

The sentiment behind the ban is certainly admirable. An eviction ban, its proponents argue, would keep families off the streets during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the true impact of the ban will harm the very people it attempts to help. Perversely, the ban will result in higher prices for low-income housing and lower prices for luxury housing. This is because it disincentivizes landlords from investing in low-income housing. The eviction ban threatens the very mechanism for improving the housing supply and creatively adapting to people’s needs.

For Noah Gould and the Acton Institute, the market should dictate all things related to housing, since, as Gould says, “Landlords must sacrifice in the present and plan for the future. The risk they undertake is only worthwhile if they have a realistic chance of a return on investment. Instead of disrupting the market process, local and federal officials should look to other means for improving the housing situation for low-income Americans.”

The Acton writer doesn’t want the market to be interrupted, yet they want local and federal officials to “improve the housing situation for low-income Americans.” Not surprising that the Acton writer opposes any disruption to the market-driven system for housing that we have in the US, yet they don’t offer any clear proposal for how to improve housing for low-income people.

Another perspective on housing evictions comes from a recent article by Rev. Liz Theoharis, who is the co-chair of the national Poor People’s Campaign. Theoharis wrote an article on September 16, entitled, The Moral Case for Resisting Evictions Amid a Pandemic.

Rev. Theoharis writes:

The average household debt burden has only grown during the pandemic and no legislative action has been taken to relieve such a rent or housing crisis. The stimulus payments, unemployment insurance, and an expanded child tax credit were simply not enough. As a result, more than 10 million households are now estimated to be behind on their rent. Rather than bailing out renters and homeowners by canceling such debts or even efficiently distributing the $45 billion in rental assistance that has largely languished in a bureaucratic hell, Congress failed to extend the eviction moratorium, paving the way for disaster.

The co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign also has an ideological framework, but her ideology puts people before profits. In addition, Rev. Theoharis presents some clear ideas about how to “improve housing for low-income people.” Actually, Rev. Theoharis is merely sharing some housing justice proposals that have been created by a larger national housing justice coalition. The national proposals include:

  • Making evictions from any dwelling, including cars, tents, and encampments, illegal.
  • Canceling the housing and rental debt that has been accumulated during the moratorium period.
  • Ending predatory speculation that raises rents and makes housing unaffordable in every state in the country.
  • Ensuring living wages and a guaranteed income so every American can afford a decent place to live.
  • Protecting and expanding voting rights including for the poor, homeless, disabled, and elderly so people have the right to vote officials into office who will represent the interests of the unhoused, the temporarily housed, and those facing evictions.
  • Ending the Senate filibuster that’s preventing the passage of bold and visionary policies, including the expansion of health care, the raising of wages, the introduction of new anti-poverty programs, and so much more.

It is unfortunate that we have the Acton Institute here in Grand Rapids, spewing their contempt for those who are not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. However, it is fortunate that we do have the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union, which embraces many of the same suggested by the national housing justice coalition.

For people who are facing eviction, please contact the Grand Rapids Area Tenant Union For those who want to be in solidarity with those who are facing eviction and work with the tenant union to fight evictions, you should also contact them to ask about when their next Eviction Defense Training will take place. In the meantime, maybe we ought to organize an action in front of or inside the  Acton Institute’s building located on E. Fulton and Sheldon, especially while all of the ArtPrize tourists will be wondering about past the apologists for Capitalism.

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