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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis County Council Reinstates Eviction Moratorium

"It makes me feel really alone in this world," said Christine Rudolph, a few days after being evicted from her home in Jefferson City. Missouri tenants facing eviction are unsure how to follow a stay-at-home order when they no longer have a home to go to.
David Kovaluk
/
St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis County Council voted Tuesday to approve a moratorium on evictions. It would apply to renters or homeowners who have lost money due to the coronavirus pandemic and are at risk of losing their homes.

Updated at 6 p.m., Sept. 8, with St. Louis County Executive Sam Page signing the bill

Most evictions in St. Louis County will be on hold in about two weeks.

The county council approved the moratorium 4-2 on Tuesday. County Executive Sam Page signed the bill Wednesday. It goes into effect 15 days after he signed it.

Councilwomen Rita Days, D-Bel Nor; Kelli Dunaway, D-Chesterfield; Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood; and Shalonda Webb, D-St. Louis County, voted for the legislation. St. Louis County Republicans Tim Fitch and Ernie Trakas voted against the measure. Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, did not attend the meeting.

The moratorium applies to renters or homeowners who have lost wages due to the pandemic and been unable to make rent or mortgage payments. They have to be at risk of becoming homeless or moving into a crowded living setting if they are evicted, and must prove to their landlord that they have tried to get all available housing assistance.

Days, who sponsored the legislation, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The legislation follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision in August that struck down the national moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The court ruled the CDC exceeded its authority in issuing a national moratorium on renter evictions. The 21st Circuit Court, which covers St. Louis County, lifted its eviction moratorium on Aug. 27.

Fitch expressed concern over the legality of the bill.

“I fully expect it to be challenged in court, and I fully expect the county to lose,” Fitch said. “We will have to spend county money again on lawyers to try to defend this in court, and we will lose.”

Fitch said he’s worried that this would also affect county landlords who rely on rent payments.

St. Louis County received nearly $27 million in federal rental assistance to distribute to residents making no more than $66,300 for a family of four. As of Friday, the county had distributed nearly $9.6 million of that allocation, or about 36%. The state has distributed another $5.5 million to county residents through the Missouri Housing Development Corporation.

New guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department allows renters to apply for the money and turn it directly over to their landlords. Page said in a recent letter to the council that the change “would expedite the process and keep our struggling residents in a stable living situation.”

The moratorium does not apply to evictions for things like criminal behavior, or to evictions by the federal government. It also does not reverse any evictions completed before the moratorium takes effect.

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