LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Three months after Lexington's eviction moratorium was lifted, eviction cases have remained consistent.
When the pandemic eviction moratoriums lifted first nationally, then in Lexington, housing advocates feared the worst-a looming eviction crisis. However, local housing advocates say they have not yet seen the numbers many worried about because of the work that went into preventing a crisis.
"That has not been our experience because we have been on the frontlines trying to make sure that people were not evicted," said Sharon Price, Executive Director of Community Action Council.
The Non-profit Community Action Council has been helping the city and the state give out more than $30.4 million in renter assistance over the past two years to people directly impacted by the pandemic.
Price says they've been processing about $110,000 in payments to landlords each day.
"If they're being evicted because of something that is COVID related, we want to make sure that they have access to these dollars that are in the community right now to help stabilize that family," said Price.
In Fayette County, because of a protection called the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, residents can't just be kicked out of their homes immediately. They have to go through a process and it starts right at the courthouse.
Price says community action representatives are showing up to every case.
"We are there every single day in eviction court to make sure that if somebody comes to their courtroom that needs help with housing stabilization, we are there to help them," said Price.
Community Action has helped connect people to the funding to pay for up to 15 months of rent or utilities before they get to the point of eviction.
"We've seen people come through our doors that haven't needed assistance with anything before but because of everything that has happened over the past 24 months, they found themselves in a situation where they needed just a little bit of help," said Price.
There were 486 eviction court cases filed in March in Fayette County, meaning that's the number of people who were facing eviction or housing instability in March. As far as how many people were actually evicted, we're still waiting on that information from the Administration of Courts.
However, Attorney Brian Dufresne, a housing expert with the Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, says the numbers are consistent with what they were last year.
"The moratorium essentially prevented evictions from moving past a certain point, but it didn't prevent landlords from filing those evictions, so we saw quite a few fillings last year," said Dufresne.
Dufresne added there were around 7,000 filings in 2021 and they expect the same number in 2022.
They're surprised the numbers haven't declined with people back to work and all the assistance available.
"I think what that means is that for financially, for a lot of low and moderate-income Lexingtonians, things have not changed very much," said Dufresne.
Dufresne says Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, which provides assistance to low-income or vulnerable people, is also in the courtroom for every eviction court case.
Right now, they're worried about the folks who don't qualify for covid rental assistance or are already maxed out on the 15 months they could receive help.
"A lot of the volume that we're seeing right now, are individuals who are taking a second bite of the apple," said Dufresne. "Landlords are a little bit more hesitant to take it that second time around."
While it isn't as bad as it could be, people are still being evicted in Lexington and Community Action still has 1100 applicants for assistance waiting. The big task now is working out what to do about the cycle many are facing.
"Affordable rent is not really affordable. It's not really a true thing in Lexington. There's no point of contact, no system that's in place. And so we're going to be working with the city to make sure that we can get a system in place so that when people are looking for affordable housing, there is one place that they can go that where they can be directed in the right place," said Price.
The state gave Community Action another 11.7 million dollars for rental assistance in March. It is not too late to apply.