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Put the Moratorium on Free Rent

It's time to get back to work.

Joe Biden openly admitted on Tuesday that extending the eviction moratorium was, to put it gently, constitutionally dubious. But besides its constitutionality, the question Americans should be asking is whether another moratorium extension is actually good for us.

It may feel good to stick it to the man—the ugly, faceless rental conglomerates and their exorbitant rates—but they aren’t the ones bleeding as a result of the continued moratorium. It’s the mom-and-pop landlords—the regular, middle class Americans—who are hurting. We’ve already seen that private equity is snatching up homes from middle class sellers, pricing many would-be homebuyers out of the market, in order to rent them. After months of missed payments, it seems only logical that middle class rental properties will soon follow, if they haven’t already, centralizing the housing market even further.

It’s been 11 months of rental lenience. It’s time to stop dodging the question and start incentivizing work again.

There are jobs—some undoubtedly better than others—for those willing to work. Companies all over the nation are struggling with labor shortages caused in part by pandemic unemployment payouts, which have made it more profitable for many to stay home than to get a job. Thus, in April, the Labor Department reported a record 9.3 million job openings, while a Chamber of Commerce survey in June found 90.5 percent of companies said of a lack of workers slowed their local economy—twice as many as complained of pandemic-related problems, the Wall Street Journal editorial board reported.

Moreover, the undesirable jobs now offer much higher wages than ever before, to combat worker shortages. Many McDonalds locations, for example, now pay between $11 and $17 per hour. (I recently drove past one near Saline, Michigan—a relatively small Midwest town—advertising a $14 per hour starting wage.) Just four years ago, I worked a minimum wage service job at $7.25 per hour, which was not abnormally low.

More importantly, however, is the concern that free rent (the effective result of banning eviction) creates an expectation for more free rent. How many Americans are capable of paying their monthly apartment bill, yet don’t because they aren’t required to? The longer we pretend consequences don’t exist, the more we create a mentally of entitlement, and the more unjust will seem any requirement to pay for a living space, even when the pandemic is long gone.

We flatter the poor, Machiavelli said, to keep the rich in power. It should be no surprise, then, that the power-hungry don’t want the moratorium to end, as it feeds their political base. But “work was made for man” still implies that man does, in fact, work. A slothful society is to our shame.

It’s time to be men again, and we can start by paying rent.

about the author

Carmel Richardson is the 2021-2022 editorial fellow at The American Conservative. She received her B.A. from Hillsdale College in political philosophy with a minor in journalism. She firmly believes that the backroads are better than the interstate, and though she currently resides in Northern Virginia, her home state will always be Tennessee.

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