Athens City Hall is seen in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Athens City Hall is seen in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]

Athens City Council passes bill to help those facing eviction

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – The Athens City Council passed relief for residents who may face eviction this holiday season.

“Homelessness is difficult any time of the year, but in Southeast Ohio, once we roll around to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, we’re talking dangerous conditions,” said Councilmember Alan Swank. 

The Right to Pay to Stay ordinance gives tenants the ability to stay in their homes as long as they are trying to pay their rent. Landlords had the right to evict as soon as you were late on the rent. Under the ordinance, residents with proof they attempted to pay their rent they can use it as a defense in court to stay in their homes.

The ordinance acts as a safety net for people who are financially stressed and miss a rent payment of some sort, said Jeff Risner, the President of Athens City Council.  

The ordinance was passed unanimously, but before that, it was very nearly tabled.  

After a 4-2 vote, the council decided the ordinance needed to be passed right away. Athens City is one of the first council’s in the nation to pass the ordinance.  

“We can only guess and estimate what the impact would be when we have an ordinance in committee being amended and checked out,” Risner said. “You don’t know until it’s actually passed and in the books.” 

The goal is to make sure everyone is in a home during the winter. The Council is optimistic about their decision, saying the good outweighs the bad.  

“(This is) City Council at its best, good discussion, points made that were with and against change, things modified,” Swank said.  “It doesn’t get better than this, government in action.”

Landlords have been notified across the community about the plan.