Missouri lawmakers discuss bill that would ban eviction moratoriums | State News
JEFFERSON CITY — A House bill that would block any bans on evictions by local governments was introduced to the Missouri House Small Business Committee on Monday.
HB 730 is in response to the federal moratorium on evictions that was in effect during the pandemic, beginning in March 2020.
During this time, landlords, investors, and property owners could not evict people for non-payment of rent.
“I think the only hope is to try and offer some protection to investors, large and small, that have not been afforded them during the COVID crisis,” said Rep. Chris Brown (R-Kansas City), the sponsor of HB 730.
“That’s the government that comes in and kind of randomly confiscates your property and tells you what you can and can’t do with that property,” Brown said.
Brown said the bill would give investors and property owners some level of reassurance.
“An investor does not necessarily have to experience a difficult economic situation. And punishing him arbitrarily for that shouldn’t be happening,” Brown said. “Probably 50% of rental properties in the United States are owned by large investors – retail investors who probably own fewer than 10 units.”
Investors aren’t typically deep-pocketed groups that can take the financial hit, Brown says.
“Most of these investors are operating on very low margin, and if they can go three, four, seven, 10 months without rental income, they can’t survive that,” Brown said.
Empower Missouri, a housing rights advocacy group, filed a statement against HB 730.
At Monday’s hearing, the group acknowledged the financial burden the state moratorium on evictions has placed on property owners. But Vee Sanchez, Empower Missouri’s affordable housing manager, said they’re hoping for other changes.
“Most of these renters are workers, and if they don’t have a place to live, wash their clothes, do hygiene and all that stuff, they’re much less likely to be able to come to work,” Sanchez said. “So there’s a strong correlation between homelessness and the impact it has on small businesses.”
Empower Missouri would want legislation that would allow the governor to issue a comprehensive disaster declaration that would allow local communities to enact a moratorium, Sanchez said.
She presented a study by JP Morgan Chase that found landlords saw just a 3% drop in rents after the 2020 moratorium.
Researchers with the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimate that the federal moratorium on evictions has reduced overall evictions by about 51% statewide.
“Tenants are unlikely to miss paying rent if they have any,” Sanchez said.
“They understand that an eviction can be really, really life changing. So what we find is that people who don’t pay rent often do so out of poverty.”
According to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, 76,923 evictions have been filed in Missouri since March 15, 2020, which is the fourth-highest number in the country.
While some members of the Missouri House Small Business Committee fully supported HB 730, others wanted the committee to find a “middle ground.”