St. Louis aldermen reviving legislation for tenants facing eviction to have an attorney
St. Louis aldermen are planning to bring back a proposal that would provide tenants facing eviction with legal representation.
Earlier this year, the Board of Aldermen gave first-round approval to a bill that would contract with local nonprofits or attorneys on representation for people going through eviction proceedings. It would also require landlords to advise tenants of their rights and require the city to make sure that all renters are provided counsel by Jan. 31, 2027.
Then-Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia’s bill faced little opposition when it went through the board earlier this year. But it stalled because aldermen weren’t able to secure funding for the program.
Board of Aldermen President Megan Green said the bill will be reintroduced next week. She said the program will be paid for with COVID-related relief funds.
“And we know that this is just the first step in tenants’ rights that needs to be created in our city,” Green said. “We know that evictions in our city have disproportionately hurt BIPOC communities and single moms. In fact, we've had more than 4,000 evictions a year. And most of the time when it goes to court, it sides with the landlord. And that's largely because of lack of representation.”
Action St. Louis organizing manager Kennard Williams said that a right to counsel could go a long way at giving renters a fair shot when their housing is threatened.
“With the criminal process, if you are charged with a crime you are given a public defender to represent you in court. And in housing court, It's not the case,” Williams said. “So we often see tenants disproportionately not represented by a lawyer.”
Williams added that the legislation could prevent city families from being destabilized.
“We're seeing lower numbers in schools because people are being displaced,” Williams said. “We're seeing more people on the streets because people are being displaced. And we really have to find a better way to really take care of our people in our community.”
During a rally for the right to counsel legislation, several speakers talked about their experiences facing eviction. St. Louis resident Chiquita Hill said she and her children faced displacement after she had financial troubles in the wake of spinal surgery.
She said the legislation could provide an important legal lifeline to prevent disruption, especially for children in school.
“We’ve got to come together as a community, because we need each other to thrive,” Hill said.