St. Louis Judge Extends Eviction Moratorium Through April 5 To Help Families
St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer has extended his order halting evictions through April 5 to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Attorneys for people facing evictions say many have lost income during the coronavirus pandemic and need St. Louis officials to release federal aid.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer has extended through April 5 his order halting evictions in the city.
In an order Monday, the day on which his previous order was set to expire, Stelzer wrote that the extension is necessary to keep people in their homes during a public health crisis.
Housing attorneys say the judge’s order will help people who lost income during the coronavirus pandemic and have been unable to pay their rent or mortgages.
“Right now we are in a limbo where many people are months and months behind. It's a very frightening situation for all of them,” said Thomas Pearson, an attorney for Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council. “If this is not handled properly we can see more homelessness since the Great Depression.”
In January, St. Louis received $9 million from the U.S. Treasury Department to help families with housing and rental assistance. However, the city has not yet distributed the money to the community.
“There were some additional restrictions by the federal government placed on those dollars, so we've had to work through that and secure the providers and then we have to get to open that back up very soon,” said Jacob Long, a spokesperson for Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Attorneys helping people facing evictions say that if the city does not distribute the money soon, communities of color will suffer the most.
“We have to get this money out if we want to really address the housing stability crisis that we are staring right in the face day to day and will be for months down the road,” said Lee Camp, an attorney for ArchCity Defenders.
Camp said the additional aid also can help tenants catch up on their rent payments and stay in their homes, as well as help landlords.
Some families in the region are behind a few months, while others owe a year’s worth of rent because they lost income during the pandemic, he said.
“We have families that are at threat of displacement because they cannot afford their rent. It is not that they can't get into housing, they are behind on rent due to no fault of their own,” Camp said. “What they need right now is either forgiveness across the board on the rental debts that are owed or they need time to be connected to rental assistance programs.”
Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist