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Landlord And Housing Advocates Say Eviction Moratoriums Are Not Enough

With thousands of evictions filed in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County since March 2020, housing advocates worry that many tenants will be forced from their homes as eviction moratoriums are lifted.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
With thousands of evictions filed in St. Louis and St. Louis County since March 2020, housing advocates worry that many tenants will be forced from their homes as eviction moratoriums are lifted.

The eviction crisis advocates fear is on the horizon will likely have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, single female-led households and households with children. That’s according to a new report from the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council.

“We thought it happened, we felt like it was happening, but we wanted to look into the data,” explained Marissa Cohen, education coordinator for EHOC and one of the main authors of the report.

And despite a variety of pandemic-related eviction moratoriums at federal and local levels, Cohen and her colleagues found that more than 5,000 evictions still were filed in St. Louis and St. Louis County between March 2020 and January 2021. Some of those have been carried out, Cohen said.

Most of the 5,000 actions have been paused for the evictions. But analyzing the data, EHOC found that many of the same ZIP codes disproportionately affected by the 2008 housing crisis are seeing the highest number of filings in the past year. Those are also areas with a high percentage of Black residents and female heads of household with children, the report said.

Marissa Cohen, left, and Nick Kasoff will join Tuesday's talk show.
EHOC & Nick Kasoff
Marissa Cohen, left, and Nick Kasoff joined Tuesday's talk show.

The CDC’s eviction moratorium along with the city and county’s moratoria are currently set to expire June 30. Advocates anticipate an “avalanche” of residents being forced out of their homes, with many pending evictions expected to be quickly executed.

The uncertainty about whether a specific moratorium will be lifted or extended by a given date is a particular challenge.

“We have been finding out the day before, the day of [an extension of a moratorium],” Cohen told host Sarah Fenske. “Families are literally hanging on by a thread to know whether or not they will be evicted the next day versus knowing in advance and making arrangements ... for those individual families being impacted.”

And, she noted, “they still may have a huge bill to pay at the end once these eviction moratoria are lifted.” Eviction filings remain on people’s records and can become a barrier to accessing future housing, too.

EHOC’s report, titled “Stop Gap: Eviction moratoriums and housing (in)stability in the St. Louis area,” argues that the eviction crisis is a fair-housing issue that will require legislative changes in order to adequately address. The report also walks readers through the “multistep process” that is an eviction; its accessibility was a key goal of its authors to begin with.

“We thought it was super important to really break down what we’re talking about,” Cohen said. “The idea is that the general public would be able to consume it.”

Nick Kasoff, a local landlord who owns 15 single-family homes in Ferguson, shared his perspective on this ongoing issue during Tuesday’s on-air discussion as well.

He said that most of his tenants have been able to make rent over the past year, and he’s used to giving grace to reliable tenants who fall behind, pandemic or not.

Evictions Could Hit Single Moms, Black Residents Hard, Report Says
Listen as Marissa Cohen and Nick Kasoff talk with Sarah Fenske.

“Here in Ferguson, working-class people are always at the financial edge, so even before the pandemic we had to work with people to keep them in our homes, and eviction’s not good for [landlords] either,” Kasoff said.

He explained that he’s always eager to keep a good tenant in their home.

“Most of the time you’re dealing with an honest person who’s had a short-term setback,” Kasoff said. “So if your car breaks down and you need a repair, or you’ve got a sick kid and can’t go to work this week, maybe you can’t afford your rent. But you’re still a good, reliable tenant who is going to continue paying in the future.”

But the landlord was quick to add that there are tenants who move in “never intend[ing] to pay.”

“A landlord has to have the legal tools to get rid of those people quickly, or the whole system falls apart,” he said. “I can’t keep the honest person in their house if I have other people that are cheating.”

While he said he’s been personally fortunate, Kasoff called the CDC moratorium “a catastrophe” for others.

“I understand that there’s a need during the pandemic to prevent people from being displaced, and the way to solve that problem is for the government to step up and give people the resources they need to afford their housing,” he said. “They’ve started to do that, but ... I’ve got one tenant who — we have an application into the county for 2½ months now, and they keep saying, ‘Oh, we’re gonna pay it, we’re gonna pay it,’ and we hear nothing from them [about CARES Act funding].”

That didn’t surprise Cohen, who said she’s observed such issues as well.

“Some of the rental assistance that is available has had some challenges with actually reaching the people that are in need of it,” she said.

Cohen added that such issues are more reason, in her view, to extend the current moratoriums.

“While they have not fully gotten rid of the problem, they do address one piece of that problem, which is the physical eviction,” she said. “And if we extend those moratoria until the rental assistance funds have been depleted, then hopefully we can balance the playing field a little more for tenants and landlords alike.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.