Unprecedented wave of evictions threatens St. Louis

St. Louis is facing the prospect of a huge wave of evictions. The pandemic hit low-income households the hardest, as it put many people in the service and hospitality industries out of a job. As the economy continues to recover from the events of 2020, a spike in evictions and homelessness seems to be just on the horizon.

There have been 5,000 evictions requested in St. Louis since local courts suspended evictions in March, according to research by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. Some of these requests have been dismissed by the courts, while others have been settled out of court with landlords and tenants setting up payment plans or catching up on back payments. But many of these evictions are still pending, awaiting the scheduled end of the eviction ban on April 1. Unless the ban is extended, many of these evictions are likely to move forward all at once.

It is a moment of unprecedented difficulty for both landlords and renters, with the former facing a loss of income and the latter homelessness. The Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council has experienced a 60% spike on its emergency hotline since.

Both the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County have set aside millions of dollars of funding to help vulnerable families pay their rent and mortgages while the economy still recovers from the pandemic and lockdowns.

According to the Eviction Lab research, eviction filings in St. Louis and St. Louis have been low in 2020, compared to normal numbers. But the number of filings is going up as time goes on, even despite the moratorium and government aid.

Tension is brewing between landlords and tenants as the eviction moratorium seems mainly to be pushing the problem into the future. Concerns are particularly high over the possibility of a massive wave of evictions all at once, when the moratorium ends. Matthew Chase, a local landlord-tenant lawyer, has filed over 1,400 evictions since the pandemic hit. Most of them have been deferred, not dismissed.

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