Over the past 10 years, Jefferson City had an eviction rate almost half the statewide average and about 30 percent lower than the nationwide average, according to a new nationwide database that tracks evictions nationwide.
Jefferson City apartment owners said screening apartment applicants and working with tenants during hard economic times are reasons eviction rates are low in Jefferson City. Still, directors of programs that help low-income people said a need remains for low-income housing.
The News Tribune and the Fulton Sun analyzed data from Eviction Lab, a Princeton University tool that allows users to find the number of evictions in their community. To do this, Eviction Lab combines eviction court records from 48 states and the District of Columbia combined with U.S. Census Bureau Data.
From 2007-16, Jefferson City had an eviction rate of 1.96 per 100 renters, according to a News Tribune analysis of the data. With an eviction rate slightly higher at 2.04 evictions per 100 renters, Cole County also fell comfortably below the Missouri average of 3.5 evictions per 100 renters and the nationwide average of 2.74 evictions per 100 renters.
From 2007-16, Callaway County had an eviction rate of 1.66 evictions per 100 renters and Miller County had an eviction rate of 1.28 per 100 renters, according to the data.
Data from Boone, Moniteau and Cooper counties was unavailable for part or all of the time period covered by the analysis.
Compared to other cities and towns in the region, Fulton had an eviction rate of 1.37 per 100 renters during the time period studied and Columbia had an eviction rate of 1.9 evictions per 100 renters.
Action Realty Owner Ken Thoenen said Jefferson City landlords like him do a good job of screening applicants for red flags like bad credit histories. Doing this can prevent many evictions later on.
“The big thing is when they fill out their application is that they meet the criteria,” Thoenen said. “We usually have a lot of the same criteria to evaluate whether they’re going to be good tenants.”
In 2016, Jefferson City had an eviction rate of 1.64 percent. Fulton came in slightly lower at 1.18 percent, and New Bloomfield had an eviction rate of 1.06 percent.
Jana Millard, Mid-Missouri Apartment Association president and manager of DeVille Properties in Jefferson City, said her company averages about one eviction per month out of 495 units.
“I feel like they’re at a manageable level,” Millard said.
From 2007-16, Holts Summit consistently had the highest eviction rate in areas around Jefferson City at 2.98 percent. In 2016, Holts Summit had an eviction rate of 2.98 percent. Eviction Lab noted there were only 11 evictions in the city last year, compared to 122 in Jefferson City.
In 2016, Jefferson City’s median rent of $583 per month fell well below the statewide median of $746 per month. Jefferson City residents also spent an average of 25.7 percent of their incomes on rent, compared to 29.4 percent statewide.
Parts of the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas have some of the highest eviction rates in the state. Thoenen thinks the presence of the large workforce at the Missouri state Capitol keeps eviction rates in Jefferson City low.
“Those areas, compared to here, our economy is quite stable,” Thoenen said.
Millard said landlords usually go through with evictions because tenants fail to pay rent. Sometimes evictions occur because of other reasons like illegal drug activity.
Landlords in Jefferson City said they try to work with tenants when economic difficulties hit, like the loss of a job or unexpected expenses. If needed, Thoenen said, tenants can move to more affordable units.
Princeton University sociology professor Matthew Desmond said on Eviction Lab’s website that eviction carries with it lifelong consequences. Eviction cases are litigated in civil court where tenants often lack representation by attorneys. The same screening process that protects landlords and helps keep eviction rates low in Jefferson City also places evicted residents at a severe disadvantage when they try to rent again.
Brian Vogler, director of The Salvation Army Shelter of Hope in Jefferson City, said the majority of the shelter’s residents have been evicted from their previous housing arrangements.
“It’s really that stigma that hinders a lot of our residents from getting housing again,” Vogler said.
In Jefferson City, rental units made up 41.57 percent of homes in 2016, according to Eviction Lab. The Jefferson City Housing Authority also has 318 units of public housing.
Recent efforts to build more affordable housing, like a project to build 75 units in an old shoe factory on East Capitol Avenue, stalled after the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted in November to withhold funding for Missouri’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.
Cynthia Quetsch, Jefferson City Housing Authority executive director, said eviction rates are low in Jefferson City, but a need still exists for housing assistance. Without subsidized forms of funding, like low-income housing tax credits, developers won’t build new affordable units, she said.
“It all comes down to funding,” Quetsch said. “You’ve got to have funding, so it’s just a matter of economics.”
Fulton Sun reporter Helen Wilbers contributed to this article.