By Eric Timmons
Landlords filed at least 20 eviction cases against tenants in La Crosse County in the first two days after the eviction moratorium was lifted across Wisconsin.
Seven of those cases were filed by River City Rentals, LLC, according to public court documents, with two each filed by Oak Manor Apartments and Scenic Bluff Rentals, and the remaining by assorted other rental companies.
On March 27, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation, shutting down large parts of the economy, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued a 60-day temporary ban on evictions that expired May 26.
Activists were fearful the end of the ban would lead to a surge in evictions at a time when the state unemployment rate had topped 14%.
So far, in La Crosse County at least, there has not been a flood of evictions.
However, the 20 eviction filings in the two days after the eviction ban lifted is more than the entire number of evictions filed in the entire 30 day period before the ban was imposed, which saw 16 evictions cases filed. A further three eviction cases were filed in La Crosse County on Monday, bringing the total number of eviction cases filed to 23 since the eviction moratorium was lifted last week.
Support is available to tenants struggling to pay rent as a result of the pandemic.
Gov. Evers used a mix of state and federal funding to create $25 million assistance package for renters. The program is offering up to $3,000 per individual in a combination of rental payments and/or security deposits. To qualify, applicants must be Wisconsin residents with a household income at or below 80% of the county median income in the month of or prior to the application date. The program is being administered locally by Couleecap, which will start accepting applications for support on June 8. More information here. There’s also a new tenants’ rights organizing effort in La Crosse that you can read more about at this link.
Krista Coey the director of social services at the Salvation Army in La Crosse, said in a recent interview with Wisconsin Public Radio the organization has seen requests for rental assistance “skyrocket,” even during the eviction freeze. It has been more difficult for people without housing to “couch surf” with friends or family because of coronavirus concerns, she told WPR.
The Salvation Army’s thrift stores have been closed because of the safer at home order, which means the organization has lost money that normally would go to its homeless prevention programs.
“Once we get back up and running, we don’t know if the funds will be there to help them,” Coey told WPR. “And if we can’t help them, they’re going to be asking to check into shelter. And if our shelter can’t sustain as many people that are coming, we’re going to have a crisis on our hands of unsheltered individuals who have no place to go and nothing that we can do.”
Foreclosures were also temporarily banned as part of the governor’s order. Public statistics for foreclosures were not available for the days following the expiration of the foreclosure freeze. About 63% of housing units in La Crosse County are owner-occupied, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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