LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) – Three months after Lexington’s eviction moratorium was lifted, eviction cases have remained steady.
When pandemic eviction moratoriums were lifted first nationwide and then in Lexington, housing advocates feared the worst – a looming eviction crisis. However, local housing advocates say they have yet to see the numbers which cause many concerns because of the work that has been done to head off a crisis.
“That hasn’t been our experience because we’ve been on the front lines of making sure people aren’t being evicted,” said Sharon Price, executive director of the Community Action Council.
The nonprofit Community Action Council has helped the city and state provide more than $30.4 million in tenant relief over the past two years to those directly impacted by the pandemic.
Price says they processed about $110,000 in landlord payments each day.
“If they’re being evicted because of something that’s COVID-related, we want to make sure they have access to those dollars that are currently in the community to help stabilize that family,” Price said.
In Fayette County, due to a protection called the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, residents cannot be immediately evicted from their homes. They have to go through a process and it starts right at the courthouse.
Price says community action representatives show up in every case.
“We’re here every day in eviction court to make sure that if someone comes into their courtroom and needs help stabilizing their housing, we’re here to help,” said Price.
Community Action has helped people access finance to pay up to 15 months of rent or utilities before they get to the point of eviction.
“We’ve seen people come through our doors who didn’t need help before, but because of everything that’s happened in the last 24 months, they’ve found themselves in a situation where they didn’t have just need a little help,” Price said.
There were 486 eviction cases filed in March in Fayette County,
that is, the number of people facing eviction or housing instability in March. Regarding the number of people actually deported, we are still waiting for this information from the administration of the courts.
However, attorney Brian Dufresne, a housing expert with Bluegrass Legal Aid, says the numbers are consistent with what they were last year.
“The moratorium basically stopped evictions from going past a certain point, but it didn’t stop landlords from filing those evictions, so we saw quite a few infills last year,” Dufresne said.
Dufresne added that there were about 7,000 filings in 2021 and they expect the same number in 2022.
They are surprised that the numbers have not gone down with the return to work and all the help available.
“I think that means financially, for a lot of low- and moderate-income Lexingtonians, things haven’t changed much,” Dufresne said.
Dufresne says Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, which provides assistance to low-income or vulnerable people, is also in the courtroom for every eviction case.
At the moment they are concerned about people who do not qualify for covid housing assistance or are already at the maximum of the 15 months they could receive assistance.
“A lot of the volume we’re seeing right now is individuals taking a second bite of the apple,” Dufresne said. “The owners are a bit more hesitant to take it this second time around.”
While it’s not as bad as it could be, people are still being evicted in Lexington and Community Action still has 1,100 help seekers waiting. The big task now is to figure out what to do about the cycle that many are facing.
“Affordable rent isn’t really affordable. That’s not really a true thing in Lexington. There’s no touch point, no system in place. And so we’re going to work with the city to make sure that we can get a system in place so that when people are looking for affordable housing, there’s only one place they can go and they can be directed to the right place,” Price said.
The state gave Community Action an additional $11.7 million for housing assistance in March. It’s not too late to apply.