Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, Joined by President Megan Green, Board of Aldermen Members, Tenants and Advocates, Signs Bill Protecting Renters with Right to Counsel Program

The bill represents the City of St. Louis’ commitment to protecting renters while preventing families from ending up out on the street.

July 12, 2023 | 2 min reading time

Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, joined by President Megan Green, Ald. Anne Schweitzer (1), Ald. Alisha Sonnier (7), Ald. Michael Browning (9), Ald. Shameem Clark-Hubbard, Ald. Rasheen Aldridge (14), and local tenants, signed Board Bill 59, which will help provide access to legal representation for tenants facing eviction. The bill, which creates a Right to Counsel program, represents the City of St. Louis’ commitment to protecting renters while preventing families from ending up out on the street.

“In a city where almost 60 percent of households are renters, this bill demonstrates St. Louis’ commitment to strengthening tenant protections and reducing housing instability in our communities,” said Mayor Jones. “When we protect tenants, when we make sure families have a place to stay, we are addressing a major root cause of crime in our neighborhoods and across our entire city. Today is just the first phase in what will be a long-term project, and it is important to remember it will take time for providers to scale this effort up to meet the needs of St. Louis families.”

With $685,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Board Bill 59 is the first step in expanding access for legal services to tenants facing eviction proceedings. Scaling up this program will require the participation of legal service providers, and the bill creates flexibility to adjust funding in the years ahead. The initial program, which by ordinance is set to begin on July 1, 2024, will focus on zip codes with high rates of eviction. The zip codes currently with the highest rates of eviction are 63103, 63101, 63111, 63118, 63112, and the City will reassess when the program starts for the most up-to-date data. 

“Today, St. Louis becomes the 22nd jurisdiction in the country to put a right to counsel for eviction cases in place and it could not come at a more opportune time,” said President Megan Green. “Between the ongoing affordable housing crisis and the end of covid-era moratoria, tenants are in a precarious position. Balancing the relationship between landlords and tenants is key to addressing housing insecurity in our city. And I’m grateful to renters, advocates, Mayor Jones’s administration, and my colleagues at the board for working together to make this possible.”

Cities like Kansas City, San Francisco, and New Orleans have implemented similar programs to support tenants who lack access to legal support during the eviction process.

“Eviction never impacts just a single person,” said 11th ward resident and father Damon Starks who has experienced eviction. “Programs like Right to Counsel provide legal defense to people who otherwise would not have the ability to attain it. This is how we protect our communities.”

Board Bill 59 is the latest initiative to help make sure St. Louis families have a roof over their heads with safe and stable housing. The City is working to provide the resources to help families stay housed, expand our pool of affordable housing, and promote homeownership. Through rental assistance, St. Louis helped nearly 5,000 families make rent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with the RETAF coalition, the City has saved dozens of homes from foreclosure and tax sale. The St. Louis Development Corporation, Community Development Administration, and the Affordable Housing Commission are making unprecedented investments into affordable housing with more than 200 single family homes in the production pipeline, and thirteen Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects representing more than 1,000 affordable units awarded in the 2021 and 2022 rounds alone.

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