Community

Nearly a fifth of Kentuckians are behind on rent or mortgage payments and could face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey from earlier this month. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday it was extending a moratorium on evictions until the end of July.  

But time is running out, and the onus is on residents to help themselves. Renters must print or email the moratorium document to their landlord to get the relief, said Marilyn Harris, director of the Office of Housing for Louisville Metro government.

“The tenant actually has to print it out, sign it and send it to the landlord,” she said. “But the tenant has to take the initiative and do it.” 

The moratorium applies only to people who make less than 80% of the area’s median income and have been unable to pay rent. Landlords are still able to evict residents when tenants stay past their lease’s end date, and landlords have given a month’s notice.

Landlords have begun the process of evicting about 6,000 Louisville residents and Harris expects a wave of new filings at the end of July. 

“We will see a flood of evictions come in once this moratorium expires,” she said. 

As Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville already has the most renters of anywhere in the state. Right now, the city is more than 30,000 rentals and homes short of meeting the needs of its most impoverished residents.

Without relief, the evictions will compound the city’s affordable housing crisis. Once a family is evicted, it makes it more difficult to find another place to live. Some become homeless. Those who can find another place often endure a lower quality of living. 

“So we’ve got a shortage of housing and we have a bunch of people who are going to have evictions on their record and where are they going to go?” Harris said. “So they are either going to be homeless, or they are going to live somewhere that is not fit for human habitation or they are going to live in the most deplorable housing conditions we have in the city.”

But there are still options. Louisville Metro has already distributed more than $42 million to more than 12,300 households in need of assistance.

Louisville residents can sign up for assistance with the Office of Resilience and Community Services. The program pays all of the past due rent for the last 12 months and three months in advance. 

Tenant John Hamilton said in an email that the assistance he received from Louisville Metro prevented him from ending up homeless, again. 

“Myself and my fiancée were in tears once we found out for sure we were able to get help with rent and electric also,” he wrote. “We’ve been homeless before and was scared we were going to be homeless again!” 

Residents struggling to pay rent because of the pandemic, or, who have been served an eviction notice can go to stopmyeviction.org to sign up for an eviction diversion program. 

Cara Stanley, property manager at Summit Apartments, said at one point, 50 of the complex’s 168 tenants were receiving assistance. At times, Stanley has sat down with tenants to help them upload the necessary documents.   

“Of course we don’t want to evict 50 people all at once. That’s bad in numerous different ways,” Stanley said. “Anything that will help them will help us too.” 

While residents in Louisville and Lexington can apply for assistance with their local governments, renters in the rest of the state can apply through the Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund. Homeowners can find assistance at the Kentucky Homeowner Protection Center.  

Molly Tate with the Kentucky Housing Corporation, which administers funds on behalf of the state, said there is still money available to help those in need. 

“We’re so happy because that gives our Kentucky renters, our tenants, more time to get back on their feet and begin paying their rent again,” Tate said. 

Back in February, the state received $297 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for eviction relief.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.
Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.