Report urges strong eviction moratoriums, robust rental aid

Man finding eviction notice on door (Photo courtesy Missouri News Service)

new study of eviction filings in St. Louis during the pandemic found people within protected classes under the Fair Housing Act, communities of color, women-led households, and families with children are impacted at higher rates than others.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council’s report noted even though moratoriums have kept many people unable to pay rent in their homes, some landlords have continued to file evictions, and judgments have been made.

Marissa Cohen, the education coordinator for the Council, noted an eviction filing on someone’s record negatively affects their prospects for future housing.

“We already have these people within a protected class that has been historically disadvantaged when it comes to accessing quality housing options,” Cohen explained. “And so now on top of that, we have eviction filings that act as a red stain on someone’s record that will not go away.”

More than 5,000 evictions were filed in the St. Louis area since March 2020. The report showed the same communities that faced the most were also hit the hardest by the 2008 financial crisis and historically faced redlining, the practice that kept Black, brown and Indigenous residents from getting home loans and homeowners insurance in certain neighborhoods.

The federal government, the city, and the county have all had moratoriums in place during the pandemic, but shifting expiration dates and legal challenges have left many unsure of the status.

TJ Pearson, staff attorney for the Council, warned once federal and local moratoriums expire, many more evictions may be carried out. He said they need to be extended and strengthened, and more funds allocated for rental assistance.

“The rental assistance and the eviction moratoriums go hand in hand,” Pearson asserted. “They have to work in tandem, or else you can have people being evicted while they’re in the process of getting rental assistance.”

The report called for getting more legal services to tenants and enhancing case-reporting systems that can help collect and analyze data on eviction trends. It also recommended policymakers protect tenants who faced evictions during the pandemic by keeping it off their records.

(Photo courtesy Missouri News Service)