A new learning opportunity to explore how a right to counsel for tenants promotes housing stability and how cities, counties, and states around the country can advance and implement right to counsel programs and policies.
KEY DATES & INFORMATION
Applications due: February 24, 2023 at 11:59pm U.S. Pacific Time.
Jurisdictions Selected: 13 (max)
Sprint Kickoff: March 15, 2023
Duration: March 15, 2023 – Mid-May
Results for America invites place-based teams to apply for this 9 session virtual Sprint led by National Coalition for Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC), PolicyLink, and Human Impact Partners. Selected collaborative government and local practitioner teams committed to advancing the right to counsel for tenants facing eviction in their communities will receive expert guidance on how to advance towards enactment, design, implementation, and sustainability of a tenant right to counsel policy and programs. In addition to intra and inter jurisdictional learning from experts with substantial experience, and networking with like jurisdictions, this is an opportunity to build a coalition of diverse individuals, organizations, and sectors in your jurisdiction that are all working in partnership to push a right to counsel for tenants forward.
Read on to learn more about the need for tenant right to counsel policies and programs, and more Sprint logistics and requirements.
For many types of civil court cases, the potential consequences of losing are dramatic: loss of one’s home, children, livelihood, education, health, safety, liberty, or even life. Evictions potentially impact all of these interests for millions annually. Before COVID-19, on average, there were over 3.6 million evictions annually, demonstrating a long standing housing crisis in the U.S. Even now, over two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 1.5 million tenants have faced the harsh aftermath of an eviction filing according to the Eviction Lab’s Eviction Tracking System which has tracked eviction filings since the start of the pandemic across 9 states and 32 cities across the nation.
Evictions do not just threaten a person’s immediate housing and personal property. Evictions also negatively impact tenant mental and physical health, employment stability, and increase the risk of homelessness, which can in turn increase interactions with the criminal legal system and child welfare system. Evictions are particularly devastating for children, impacting their social and emotional development and educational attainment. And during COVID-19, evicted tenants have faced increased exposure to the virus, which can be life threatening for unstably housed populations. The health and social impacts of evictions are heavily racialized, further entrenching existing racial and health injustices.
The power dynamic between landlords and tenants is imbalanced from the beginning of the rental relationship. Landlords write the leases; landlords say yes or no to a potential renter; and landlords determine whether and when to employ the eviction process. The mere filing of an eviction action against a tenant, regardless of the outcome (including if the tenant won), can remain on a tenant’s record for years and impact future housing opportunities.
Worst of all – evictions, and their residual consequences, are not experienced equally as they threaten, disrupt, and harm communities of color disproportionately across the country. A long, continuing, and unaddressed history of racism in U.S. housing policy and practice, has led to a reality where Black women renters face eviction twice as often as white tenants. And getting legal assistance for an eviction, particularly for low-income tenants, is often a game of chance. It depends heavily on where a tenant resides, whether there is a local legal aid provider and whether the provider has capacity, is taking on new cases at the time, or even handles evictions. When it comes to legal representation, on average only 3% of tenants facing eviction are represented, compared to 81% of landlords.
THE SOLUTION: Advancing Housing Justice through a Right to Counsel for Tenants Facing Eviction
A right to counsel for tenants is a guarantee in the law that eligible tenants will be provided with an attorney when they face an eviction, or other eligible equivalent proceeding. 15 cities and 3 states have enacted a right to counsel for tenants since 2017 (most of them, during COVID-19). A right to counsel policy is a critical intervention in the eviction crisis because it is demonstrably effective and cost-efficient for jurisdictions. It is also a compliment to other tenant protections, and broader housing justice and health justice reforms.
Effectiveness of Tenant Representation in General:
- Open Justice Oklahoma found that tenant legal representation increased the odds of a person remaining in their home by 75% in Tulsa County.
- A study out of Hennepin County, Minnesota found that fully represented tenants:
- Won or settled their cases 96% of the time (while those with no legal services won or settled only 62% of the time);
- Were almost twice as likely to remain in their homes;
- Had twice the time to move, when they agreed to do so;
- Were much less likely to have an eviction record: 80% of those with a lawyer left court without an eviction record compared to 6% of those unrepresented; and
- Were four times less likely to use homeless shelters.
- A California study found that fully represented tenants stayed in their units three times as often as those receiving limited or no legal assistance. When tenants did have to move, fully represented tenants were given twice as long to do so. And an evaluation of a robust right to counsel pilot program in California, found that a year after services were provided, 71% tenants that were served by the pilot program were living in a new rental unit compared to only 43% of the comparison group.
- A Colorado study found that when tenants had representation, they usually prevailed and that represented tenants remained in their homes 70-100% of the time, compared to 32% of unrepresented tenants.
Effectiveness of Right to Counsel for Tenants programs: *NOTE: many jurisdictions are still implementing their right to counsel programs, but data is now available from several jurisdictions that have implemented RTC long enough to generate findings.
- Studies from Stout, a financial analysis company, have found that cities and states will save far more than they spend to provide such a right, due to avoided costs around shelters, health care, foster care, and other social safety net services.
- In New York City, the latest evaluation of the right to counsel program showed that 84% of represented tenants were able to remain in their homes and that 71% of tenants who appeared in Housing Court had full representation by attorneys which was an “exponential increase over the 1 percent of tenants who had lawyers in 2013.”
- The latest evaluation of Cleveland’s right to counsel showed that 93% of RTC clients avoided an eviction judgment or an involuntary move, and 92% of clients who wanted additional time to move and 97% who sought monetary relief, were able to get it. Particularly critical at this time, 83% of RTC clients who desired rental assistance were able to obtain it. Critically, of the 21% of RTC clients unaware of rental assistance at the time they contacted Legal Aid, approximately 98% wanted rental assistance and Legal Aid helped 81% of those clients obtain it.
- In San Francisco, the current data shows that 59% of fully represented tenants are able to remain in their homes. And of the 30% who did not remain in their unit, 70% received a favorable settlement, such as a move-out with sufficient time and money (i.e., a combination of rent waiver and cash payment to move out).
- In Boulder, a 2021 report of the right to counsel program showed that 63% of cases in the program avoided eviction, which was a 26% increase. In essence, all tenants who appeared in court and were provided an attorney avoided eviction; only the no-show tenants were given an eviction order.
- In Jackson County (where Kansas City, MO is located), the pre-RTC eviction rate was 99% and in the first three months of right to counsel it was less than 20%.
- In Connecticut, of the 82% of clients that wanted to prevent an involuntary move, 71% achieved that goal while out of 80% of clients who sought to avoid an eviction on their record, 76% achieved that goal. Notably, 59% of RTC clients indicated they had defective conditions in their homes, which may have contributed to the 32% of clients that indicated they did not want to stay in their homes.
For more evidence, look at NCCRC’s comprehensive bibliography which tracks the studies that have analyzed the impact of providing counsel for tenants in eviction cases.
Cost Savings and Economic Benefits for Jurisdictions
- In a recent evaluation of Cleveland’s right to counsel program, the net savings, from avoiding social safety net costs, for Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were estimated to be approximately $1.8-1-9 million.
- The estimated economic benefits of providing a right to counsel in Detroit, was estimated to be 352% greater than the cost of the right to counsel.
- For every dollar invested in a right to counsel in Baltimore City, the estimated cost savings (or value of providing the services) were at least $6.24 for Baltimore City and Maryland overall.
- In Connecticut, the estimated cost savings to the state were between $5.8 – $6.3 million.
Community organizers, tenants, legal practitioners, and civil servants across the country have generated a thriving movement for a right to counsel for tenants after recognizing the interests at stake, effectiveness of representation, power imbalance between landlords and tenants, and the cost savings. In 2017, NYC tenants and organizers turned it into the first city with an enacted right to counsel for tenants. As of July 2022, 14 additional cities and 3 states have enacted a right to counsel for tenants.
Additionally, support for tenants right to counsel is gaining — Data for Progress and The Appeal have conducted polling showing that support for a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction has grown to the point that “81 percent of voters—including 87 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 70 percent of Republicans—support[ing] a right to counsel for evictions proceedings.” And judges in New York City testified that the right to counsel law has had a positive impact on court efficiency and fairness. Judge Jean Schneider, the citywide supervising judge of the New York City Housing Court, testified that “our court is improving by leaps and bounds.”
The right to counsel for tenants can:
- help promote health and race equity,
- empower tenants to protect their basic rights,
- help build tenant power to organize around and achieve greater housing justice reforms,
- encourage greater thoroughness and fairness in court
- facilitate better outcomes for all litigants,
- save jurisdictions more money than it costs, and
- serve as a best practice in communities.
When will your community join the many places with a right to counsel for tenants?
“I think our main takeaways were that each City/jurisdiction is different—and will get to RTC in different ways—and that’s okay, and that RTC is not a panacea, but a(n important) piece of the puzzle.”
– Fall 2022 Sprint Participant
ARHJ Sprint Overview
As part of its Solutions work, Results for America is partnering with National Coalition for Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC), PolicyLink, and Human Impact Partners to offer a cohort of cities, counties, states, and community partners to join a learning opportunity where they will:
- Receive expert guidance on how to advance towards enactment, design, implementation, and sustainability of tenant right to counsel policy and programs, with a specific focus on race and health equity,
- Have a space for intra and inter jurisdictional learning and networking, and
- Build a coalition of diverse organizations and sectors all working in partnership to create right to counsel access.
This is an opportunity presented in partnership with the Healing Through Policy initiative of the deBeaumont Foundation, National Collaborative for Health Equity, and American Public Health Association. Using the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation framework, the Healing Through Policy initiative offers local leaders a suite of policies and practices that are being implemented to bring meaningful change. Right to counsel for tenants is aligned with the Healing Through Policy suite of policies and practices. For this opportunity, applications will be limited to jurisdictions who have made declarations of racism as a public health crisis. To identify if your jurisdiction has issued a declaration, refer to APHA’s map of declarations.
Participating teams will work through a 9 session online learning curriculum with a cohort of peers from other jurisdictions will have:
- Learned the meaning and value of eviction right to counsel;
- Learned to comprehend the nuances, and complexities of establishing and implementing an eviction right to counsel;
- Understood the local eviction context, the necessity of approaching eviction right to counsel with a race, gender, disability, health and other equity lenses;
- Recognized the importance of centering community organizers and tenants, and their expert knowledge, in right to counsel campaigns;
- Identified the necessary concrete next steps to move towards legislation and/or implementation and begun taking those steps, including:
- Identified potential opponents and the arguments they will make, and begun to formulate responses to those arguments
- Developed understanding of pressure partners/strategy who can make effective political arguments for media/public pressure that will influence key decision makers
- Built a stronger relationship with coalition partners.
“We realized how many questions our community needs to answer and how much evidence we needed to pull together to secure our funding. It gave us thoughts on how & who to bring this to in our community to get it started.”
– Fall 2022 Sprint Participant
WHO SHOULD APPLY
Place-based teams are invited to apply. City, County, and State governments are strongly encouraged to bring together a team of key, diverse stakeholders to maximize the opportunity and establish a foundation for long-term success.
Participating members of the team could include, but are not limited to, leaders and staff from:
- Strongly recommended:
- Closely affiliated legal aid providers
- Community-based organizations / Tenant organizing groups
- Representatives from Council / Mayor’s office, Legal Department, and/or Housing Department
- Public health departments or other public health representatives
- Recommended/ suggested:
- Closely affiliated local non-profit
- Housing department
- Department of Community Engagement
- Providers of post-eviction services, such as homeless shelters
- Emergency rental assistance provider (if applicable at the city level)
- Housing court judges / staff
- Evaluator (i.e. a researcher/ university)
- Where there is no city-level or county-level person, a statewide representative can be considered.
- When: Weekly 1 – 1.5 hour sessions from March 15 – May 10, 2023
- Where: Virtually via webinars and/or cohort discussions delivered via Zoom
ADDITIONAL PARTICIPATION REQUIREMENTS AND ELIGIBILITIES
- Has demonstrated interest and/or commitment to developing an eviction right to counsel program in their community. Examples of this include:
- Working to or having passed a resolution or city ordinance
- Working to create or has an existing RTC coalition that includes government officials i.e. mayor’s Office or court participation
- Having received Prior funding for legal representation for tenants
- Has conducted research or reached out to an RTC expert partner for guidance
- Ability of majority of the team (3-5 members) to fully engage in the sprint i.e. attend all sessions, engage in group discussions, complete assignments
- Committed to and achieving the goals of the sprint
- Committed to race, gender, and health equity
ABOUT THE SPRINT FACILITATORS
Weekly sessions will be designed and led by:
- National Coalition for Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC): The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC), organized and funded in part by the Public Justice Center (PJC), encourages, supports, and coordinates advocacy to establish and implement a right to counsel for low-income people in civil cases that involve basic human needs, including housing. The right to counsel for tenants facing eviction is a significant focus area, and we have supported advocates in most of the 18 jurisdictions that established and are now implementing such a right. We also assist nascent efforts around the country. Learn more at civilrighttocounsel.org.
- PolicyLink: PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity by Lifting Up What Works®. PolicyLink seeks to deliver and scale results in the following arenas: (1 )Equitable Economy: Promote economic inclusion and ownership to eliminate poverty, shrink inequality, and increase mobility. (2) Healthy Communities of Opportunity: Create and maintain opportunity-rich communities in all neighborhoods and all regions of the country through strong networks and social capital, equitable development, and infrastructure investments that enable low-income people and communities of color to thrive. (3) Just Society: Build power and expand agency to ensure that all systems and institutions are just, free of racial bias, and lead to a vibrant democracy where all, especially the most vulnerable, can participate and prosper.
- Human Impact Partners (HIP): Founded in 2006, Human Impact Partners (HIP) is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the field of public health to center equity and build collective power with social justice movements. We pursue our mission through a range of advocacy, organizing, research, and capacity building strategies. Based in the Bay Area, HIP staff are located all over the country. HIP’s Housing Justice program leverages policy-focused public health research and advocacy in partnership with housing justice organizers to build a world where we all have homes, communities, and neighborhoods that support our health, healing, and liberation.
Email [email protected]