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Housing groups across the Chippewa Valley prepare for the eviction moratorium

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EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - The eviction moratorium, set in motion last September by the CDC, ends Saturday. The moratorium prevented tenants who were unable to make rental payments due to the pandemic from being evicted.

Now that it is set to expire, housing officials are preparing on all ends to help both landlords and renters.

As of Friday, according to the Eau Claire Housing Authority's Executive Director, Keith Johnathan, the number of individuals on the waiting list for housing assistance for the month of July has made its way to 400; 50 more than last year and over 100 since 2010. With waits topping 18 months, and the moratorium on evictions ending, those in the housing assistance industry are preparing for an increase in calls, in need, and in shelter.

"I do think there will be an increase. I think, sometimes our human nature is until we're forced to deal with an issue, sometimes we may end up ignoring it. So I, I'm hoping that's not the case," said Kevin Burch, director of housing services at Catholic Charities, "We've tried to advertise and work with people and get information out about the funding sources that have been available, that have become available since COVID hit. I do feel that there will be an influx and what that will look like, it's really hard to say it's kind of an unknown at this point."

Burch has been preparing to set up triage come Monday; the day evictions can be filed.

"All of our staff is prepared to receive phone calls. It is just having that conversation with people and meeting them where they're at today, finding out you know, what caused them to get behind on their rent, or what caused them to be facing an eviction and then just moving from there to solve the problem. We've educated them on the different programs that are available currently, and contact information and ways to help. People get signed up for the assistance that is available. So, they're ready to go," Burch said.

Despite the eviction moratorium being extended multiple times, some believe it's time it comes to an end,

"At some point they realize that it can't go on like this forever. They have a mortgage to pay each month. A lot of these investors and landlords that own properties, they have property taxes to pay and maintenance to maintain the house, make sure it's safe and healthy, and all that costs money," said Terry Weld, Eau Claire City Council president, and property owner.

Others, however, are worried that evictions will rise because households are unaware of the aid available to help those who fell behind on their rent.

"There are funding sources that are able to be accessed out there that we've never had before. So, those of us that live and breathe the housing industry and and housing services industry, we've never experienced this," continued Birch. "So, we're almost struggling to even be able to communicate what is available and what is out there. "

The aid comes in a the form of a $322 million federal relief fund designed specifically to keep Wisconsinites in their homes. The Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program is available to those who make 80% of their county's median income and display a need of financial assistance due to pandemic hardship.

The Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council (WDEOC), which acts as an action agency to the fund, has distributed $2.4 million to over 600 families in their region (Eau Claire, Clark, Buffalo, Jackson, Trempealeau) since February. According to the WDEOC, $3,669.68 is the average benefit per household.

Eau Claire County has received $1.64 million across 428 homes as of Thursday.

"So, this benefits the renter, who gets to stay in their home, and be housed [and] their family. But it benefits the landlord. You know most of our landlords are not faceless landlords that own, you know, 100 different properties. These are single proprietors who own maybe one or two homes or apartments so landlords also have mortgages and bills to pay," said Anna Cardarella, CEO of WDEOC.

The program will send rent payments directly to your landlord and the process takes one to two weeks, hardship assistance is also applicable to utilities and internet services.

If you find yourself questioning which one is best to turn to, resources at the Housing Authority, Catholic Charities, Western Dairyland, Lutheran Social Services and Family Promise can all help.

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Alyssa Lyons

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