LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-8) has filed an ordinance to help low-income families with children facing eviction by providing them with free legal counsel during the eviction process. 

What You Need To Know

  • Councilwoman Cassie Chambers files an ordinance to help families with eviction

  • The ordinance is modeled off one in Cleveland, Ohio

  • Doctors point to research that eviction and homelessness lead to negative outcomes for children

  • The first reading of the ordinance will be Thursday at Metro Council

“This ordinance will set up a city funded system so that low-income families with children have the right to have an attorney represent them in their eviction case,” Armstrong said during a Monday morning press conference outside the Hall of Justice in Louisville to announce the ordinance. 

According to a draft of the ordinance, any person renting who has at least one child living at the location and whose annual gross income is not more than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines qualifies.

“We know that when we look at the data, we have tons of kids in our communities that are struggling with housing instability. If we are going to start somewhere, we should start with protecting our kids,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong was joined by council members who are co-sponsoring the ordinance and organizations that support the legislation, such as the Louisville Urban League and the Coalition for the Homeless. 

Armstrong said her ordinance is modeled off of a Cleveland ordinance. George Ekland who is the education & advocacy director for Coalition for the Homeless noted Cleveland’s success in implementing this type of law.

“We know that it works. We know that in Cleveland it had like a 93% success rate. For those that were represented, they either avoided eviction or they were able to move out on their own terms,” Ekland said.

Pediatrician Dr. Kendall Purcell with Norton Children’s Medical Group also spoke at Monday’s media event. She said research shows housing instability, like eviction and homelessness, can lead to negative outcomes for children, including poor parent and child bonding, lack of child care, increased levels of stress and poor sleep.

If passed, qualified renters would receive legal services from organizations such as Legal Aid Society under contract with a Louisville Metro government agency, such as the Louisville Metro Office of Housing. 

Office of Housing Director Marilyn Harris told Spectrum News 1 in a one-on-one interview that Louisville is in an eviction crisis. 

When asked her opinion on the newly filed ordinance, Harris responded, “I think we fully support it. We do know that the data shows us that people who are represented by counsel in court have better outcomes,” Harris said. However, she did note that doesn’t mean tenants always get to stay in their house.

“But what it does mean is that perhaps they won’t have an eviction on the record. Evictions can never be expunged from their record. So that’s a problem, and they have a huge impact on your credit and your credit score,” Harris said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) moratorium on evictions due to nonpayment of rent is set to expire on March 31, 2021. However, according to Jefferson County Circuit Court records, there have been 2,488 eviction cases total filed in Jefferson County from Jan. 1, 2021 to March 22, 2021. 

Harris explained that the CDC eviction moratorium really only protects people who fill out the necessary document and sends it to their landlord.

“So if the tenant doesn’t take that first step and execute that document. There is no protection for the tenant,” Harris explained. She added that the moratorium also doesn’t stop a landlord from filing the eviction in court. 

“So what happens is landlords do file, and when they get into court then the judge asks the question, ‘Has a CDC [declaration form] been issued in this,’ and if the landlord or the landlord’s attorney says, ‘Yes,’ then the cases are all now being pushed to April 9,” Harris explained. She added the CDC moratorium on evictions only prevents eviction for nonpayment of rent, and doesn’t cover issues like leases expiring or unauthorized tenants in the household, which could give landlord a reason to proceed with evictions.

Megan Metcalf, who is the legislative assistant for Armstrong’s District 8 office, is a former staff attorney with Legal Aid Society. She said during Monday’s announcement that an attorney can help families with things like identifying defenses in their case to negotiating payment plans or avoiding an eviction on their record.

“Having an attorney in eviction court means that you don’t have to go through this part alone,” Metcalf said.

Armstrong told reporters Monday that Cleveland implemented this program for about $700,000 per year. Armstrong said she thinks the price tag for Louisville will be less than that. 

The ordinance’s first reading will be at the Louisville Metro Council meeting this Thursday, March 25, 2021.

Harris said anyone facing eviction in Louisville should go to StopMyEviction.org, which provides steps on how to avoid an eviction during the pandemic, such as signing the CDC declaration form and enrolling in Louisville’s rental assistance program. Harris also said it is imperative for tenants to show up in court for eviction cases, regardless if one is still living at the rental property or not, to prevent an eviction judgment.