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Should U.S. Cities Ban Winter Evictions?

France’s “trêve hivernale” policy prevents evictions from November 1 until March 31. The U.S. has only a patchwork of cold-weather renter protections.
Despite harsh winters, Boston is one of many U.S. cities that have no temperature-based eviction bans or utility bill moratoriums.
Despite harsh winters, Boston is one of many U.S. cities that have no temperature-based eviction bans or utility bill moratoriums.Brian Snyder/Reuters

In France, the first day of November triggers a five-month respite for renters at risk for eviction. Called “trêve hivernale” (“winter break”), the measure bans evictions until March 31, and is intended to ensure families aren’t put out on cold streets. During this time, gas and electricity cannot be cut off. And this year, under France’s Equality and Citizenship Act, the policy extends beyond traditional homes (“living quarters”) and applies to all “inhabited places,” granting amnesty to those who live in makeshift shelters, too.

Winter evictions are especially cruel—and dangerous—because of the public health hazards posed by cold-weather homelessness. The National Coalition for Homelessness estimates that 700 people experiencing homelessness die annually from the effects of hypothermia in U.S. cities. In Baltimore, for example, temperatures must reach 13 degrees before expanded-service shelters open; in Pittsburgh, 25; and in Des Moines, 20.