Metro Louisville

Anyone in Louisville can now get eviction prevention funds from city government programs, regardless of income.

Until last week, such assistance was only available to families making 80 percent of the area median income: that’s $61,100 a year for a family of four in Louisville. That requirement is gone, replaced with a limit of $1,750 in assistance available to a renter each month, for a maximum of six months.

In June, Metro Council approved a city budget that included up to $21.2 million in federal CARES Act funding “for rent assistance needed to prevent evictions as a result of coronavirus-related financial issues.” 

More than 3,200 households comprising nearly 6,200 residents have received rental assistance so far. As of Oct. 16, city officials said they’ve allocated$5.4 million to these efforts through the Office of Resilience and Community Services, the Office of Housing and a partnership with the court system and Legal Aid Society. Some of the programs serve renters directly, while the Landlord Tenant Rental Assistance Program lets landlords of subsidized housing units apply for assistance.

Those seeking rental assistance can visit stopmyeviction.org, or dial 211, where someone will fill out an application for them, said Marilyn Harris, the director of Louisville Metro’s Office of Housing.

“As many of our people in our community don’t have internet access, that is an important piece of information to get out there, that 211 number,” she said.

Harris said she’s seen about 380 eviction cases in court since late August. That’s when Gov. Andy Beshear rescinded a previous executive order that suspended evictions for failure to pay rent. Some Louisville landlords reportedly resumed issuing eviction notices weeks earlier.

She estimated about 90% of those cases were related to a loss of income because of COVID-19. 

The city’s programs are also concerned with keeping landlords financially secure, Harris said, because it could prevent units from falling into foreclosure or into disrepair. A 2019 housing needs assessment found Louisville needs another 31,000 units for the lowest-income households in the city.

“This keeps the tenant in the housing but it also keeps the unit on the market so that we have affordable housing and housing for all of our community,” she said.

Harris said the city is tracking data regarding the racial breakdown of the eviction prevention assistance, but was not able to provide those details at a Wednesday morning news conference.

At the time Beshear lifted the suspension of evictions, he also announced a $15 million “Healthy at Home Eviction Fund” for the rest of the state, which also relies on federal coronavirus relief funds. At that time, Beshear issued an executive order requiring landlords to give tenants 30 days’ notice for evictions based on rent nonpayment. It also barred penalties, late fees and charging interest from March 6 through December 31. 

Mayor Greg Fischer said the CARES funds must be used by December 30, and called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work with the U.S. House of Representatives to secure another relief bill for cities and states.

Fischer said without further help, many people in the new year will be in severe trouble related to housing and income.

“These issues are way too important not to be addressing right now.” Fischer said.

Last week, McConnell said he was open to voting on a slim coronavirus relief package before Election Day, but is not considering a larger deal even though President Donald Trump has expressed interest in that.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.