Eviction filings in Milwaukee are above pre-pandemic levels and it's not clear when the surge will end

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Programs meant to help people going through the eviction process told city alders they are facing unprecedented demand for their services through the first months of the year.

The Community and Economic Development Committee discussed the issue during a March 9 meeting.

"We got some folks out here struggling," Social Development Commission CEO Dr. George Hinton told the committee.

SDC, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and Community Advocates presented data and information on their programs and how they have handled an increase of eviction filings, particularly since the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control lifted its eviction moratorium late last year.

"These resources have undoubtedly been critical and the need has been such that we've never seen before," Community Advocates Housing Strategy Director Deb Heffner said.

Leaders of these services said they expected an increase in evictions following the expiration of the federal moratorium, but noted the current surge is tied primarily to Berrada Properties Management, Inc., one of the largest landlords in the area.

"For 2022, of 3,000 evictions filed, 1,000 of those have come from Berrada Properties Management," Legal Aid Society Executive Director Colleen Foley told the committee. "So you have a huge influx into the system in a three week period of over a thousand eviction filings, you better believe that will have systemic ramifications."

The organizations told the committee they have been successful in distributing funds for rental assistance efficiently as well as representing renters in court or connecting them to additional resources. SDC said it has given out about $44.4 million for rental assistance programs with an average amount awarded of $5,468. SDC added Berrada Properties accounted for seven percent of the funds distributed.

Legal Aid Society said of 6,690 people facing eviction between September 2021 and March 2022, they represented about 19 percent of those cases. Of those 6,690, only about 1,500 people actually applied for help from Legal Aid.

That highlights another a major challenge of many tenants in the city not knowing about the services in the first place.

Alders said the city is set to receive a second tranche of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act later this year. If the eviction surge continues, they may look into funneling more funds to programs to help prevent evictions.

"Long term the state of evictions as we come out of the pandemic is a bit of a question mark," Foley said. "Because certainly there are many new programs that didn't exist before the pandemic."

While there are more services for people facing evictions, Foley said, the current pace of evictions is concerning.

"The landscape has changed since early 2020 and to what degree we don't know, but the first few months of this year, and perhaps that's because of the Berrada influx, but those are concerning because our data indicates that those are higher numbers for these first few months than even pre-pandemic," Foley said.

Below are resources for people going through the eviction process:

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