Evictions Surge in La Crosse County, Putting Dozens at Risk of Homelessness

Forty-three eviction cases have been filed in La Crosse County in the 11 days since the statewide moratorium on evictions expired May 26, according to public court records.

The number translates to 3.9 evictions cases per day, compared to an average of 1.2 cases a day for roughly the first three months of 2020, before the moratorium was imposed. 

Eleven of the cases in La Crosse County have been filed by one company: River City Rentals. No other landlord or rental company has filed more than two cases. 

In anticipation of the increase in renters facing difficulties, Gov. Tony Evers has allocated $25 million in funding for the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program (WRAP), which is being administered by Couleecap for Crawford, La Crosse, Monroe, and Vernon counties. 

WRAP can allocate up to $3,000 per person to assist with rent and security deposit payments, but the program excludes all other expenses, such as utility bills. To qualify, applicants can’t make more than 80% of the median household income in their area, putting La Crosse county residents with income over $44,000 annually out of eligibility. For Vernon, Crawford and Monroe counties, applicants would need a household income of less than $38,000 to qualify.

Local members of Coulee Tenants United, a group of volunteers in La Crosse, have sent out mailers to all defendants served with eviction papers in La Crosse County to try to increase awareness of the program and help keep tenants in their homes. The WRAP program launched on Monday, June 8, and several tenants have responded to the mailers seeking help.

Court dates for tenants facing eviction are starting as soon as June 12 and, with such a small window to act, there’s a strong possibility that some tenants who qualify for support will slip through the cracks and lose their housing.

Meanwhile, the La Crosse County Health Department reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 for June 10, the highest single-day results we have seen to date in the county. This makes it a particularly stark moment to see potentially dozens of La Crosse residents facing homelessness.

An organization representing landlords across Wisconsin called this week for landlords to work with tenants on repayment plans, instead of filing eviction cases.

“People are facing a crisis right now. Some of them are unemployed, some of them lost their job and they’re in tough situations,” Chris Mokler, legislative director for the Wisconsin Apartment Association, told Wisconsin Public Radio. “Landlords should do everything they can to communicate with their tenants, learn about their situation, see if they can help them out.”

By Peter Gorski (full disclosure: Peter is an active member of Coulee Tenant’s United)

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