'Surge' in evictions expected in Southeastern Wisconsin as federal moratorium ends

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- An expected surge in evictions has renters, advocates and property owners gearing up following the end of the federal moratorium.

The moratorium was put in place to prevent people most heavily affected by the pandemic from becoming homeless as well as ensure they had a home to stay in to avoid spreading coronavirus.

"We're certainly seeing an uptick in the filings in the last several weeks," Colleen Foley, the executive director of Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, told CBS 58.

The organization has helped people facing eviction throughout the pandemic. With the moratorium lifted, they are gearing up to assist even more people.

"I'm hiring new staff, I have two new housing attorneys starting today, I've got three more starting in two weeks, so we are anticipating a surge of evictions this summer," Foley said.

"There's definitely going to be an uptick," Heiner Giese said in an interview. "I was talking to a landlord this morning. His tenant hasn't paid rent since June of last year."

Giese is the legal counsel for the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin. Giese said property owners and landlords have used mediation more often during the pandemic but the moratorium has still left an impact.

"Sad to say when people get evicted, they're in distress, most of that money is just a loss for the landlord," Giese said.

State leaders said collaborations between renters, property owners and landlords, government and courts have helped avoid major issues and mass evictions.

"I don't think there's ever been a time when there's been better communication between the advocates for renters and the real estate owners and the landlords," Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan said in a phone interview.

Brennan said the state and localities have been up to the challenge to efficiently distribute federal funds for rental assistance for both renters and property owners. His hope is that will continue.

"All that is going to be tested even more in the coming months, but I think we've set a good tone in terms of that communication," Brennan said.

Brennan believes the collaborations are better for everyone involved.

"It's far more efficient and effective if we make sure they have access to those federal resources and that they get them efficiently, that it is to enter eviction proceedings," Brennan said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proposed using millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds for eviction prevention. The Common Council will take those funds up for consideration when it returns from its August recess.

Milwaukee County has recently launched a regional eviction prevention campaign in partnership with Waukesha County to highlight resources from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Renters and landlords in those two counties can apply for ERAP funds at: https://communityadvocates.net/.   

More information about Milwaukee evictions data can be found here: https://mke-evict.com/.

Legal Aid Society services can be found here: https://lasmilwaukee.com/.

Other legal service can be found at: http://www.judicare.org/ and https://www.legalaction.org/.

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