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St. Louis County eviction moratorium will help vulnerable residents through Jan. 5

One of the topics of the 2018 Fair Housing Conference was on finding was to reduce the number of evictions in St. Louis.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County residents who cannot pay rent have until Jan. 5 to apply for federal rental assistance to avoid risking eviction.

St. Louis County residents who face eviction and cannot pay rent can stay in their homes throughout the holidays.

County Executive Sam Page has signed a 15-day eviction moratorium that expires Jan. 5. Page also signed a bill that will provide landlords and tenants rental aid for about 30 days. The money comes from $5 million in federal rental aid funds.

As of Dec. 23, St. Louis County courts scheduled 37 evictions for this week. The eviction moratorium will keep families in their homes and give them time to apply for rental assistance.

The county council passed the measures after housing advocates said there is no more rental assistance money available to distribute to landlords and tenants. That is a big concern during the holiday season, Councilwoman Lisa Clancy said.

“I know that there is an omicron variant of COVID that is making its way through our community right now,” said Clancy, who introduced the measures. “I think about the children through no fault of their own that could be out on the streets with family members right now … but now is not the time to let rental assistance lapse or to put people on the street.”

Clancy said that while the county is waiting on its second allotment of emergency rental assistance, the county’s available federal funding should provide families with relief in the short term.

Rental assistance is the only thing that is helping struggling families stay in their homes, and it has stopped plenty of evictions, but residents need long-term assistance, said Thomas Pearson, an attorney for Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council.

“No one wants to be evicted during the holidays, but no one wants to be evicted ever,” Pearson said. “Just halting them until Jan. 5 isn't going to really solve the wider cause of these issues, so it's really just putting a temporary Band-Aid on a problem that's not going away.”

He said to help solve the problem, officials need to quickly send out the federal aid and simplify the application process for tenants.

To qualify for the eviction moratorium, tenants must provide a signed declaration stating that they have applied for rental assistance, did not earn more than $99,000 last year or receive a stimulus check. Tenants can also qualify if they cannot pay rent because of loss wages due to the pandemic, would likely become homeless if evicted, have tried to make partial rental payments or live in an area where the coronavirus is highly transmissible.

If tenants have already filed a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction declaration with the same landlord and it is still accurate, a new declaration is not needed.

“No one wants to be in this situation, and for a lot of people, these measures are the last line of hope for staying housed, so while they might not be as powerful as we want them to be ideally, they will help some people,” Pearson said.

People who need assistance with paying rent can visit the county’s website.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.