Civil Gideon

New Development: Philadelphia City Council Eviction Crisis Hearing

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On Monday, March 20, 2017, Philadelphia City Council held a public hearing on the city's eviction crisis and how creating a civil right to counsel for low-income tenants would help resolve this crisis. Compelling testimony was presented at the hearing about the scope and impact of eviction crisis on low-income families and children and the community and included the following points:

  • Philadelphia's eviction rate is four times higher than the foreclosure rate, impacting nearly 1 in 14 Philly renters;
  • More than 24,000 landlord-tenant cases were filed in Municipal Court during 2016, but only the equivalent of six and a half full time legal aid attorneys were available to provide court representation to low-income renters in these cases. It is estimated that only 8.2 % of all tenants involved in eviction cases filed in the Municipal Court last year were represented by counsel, and only 1.45 % of those tenants were represented by a Philadelphia legal aid provider. In stark contrast, 81% of landlords were represented by counsel in 81% of these cases, creating a systemic power imbalance that often results in tenants being evicted.
  • Eviction is a leading cause of homelessness and housing instability in Philadelphia; it destabilizes neighborhoods and increases transience in struggling neighborhoods, leaving them vulnerable to violence and crime;
  • Evictions hurt children's academic achievement and school attendance; they also negatively impact physical and mental health by fracturing continuity of care and management of chronic health issues;
  • Evictions propel families into a downward spiral of poverty; often tenants with eviction histories are denied future housing and heads of households often lose their jobs when evicted;
  • Evictions cost the City over $40,000 to shelter a single family and they burden our shelter system, which is already at capacity and forced to turn away residents; and
  • Legal aid is an effective solution to prevent evictions and homelessness and it is cost effective: for every $1 spent on legal aid in Pennsylvania there is an $11 return.

Testimony was presented by the Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor, Deborah Gross; Catherine Carr, Co-Chair of the Civil Gideon and Access to Justice Task Force and Representative of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel; Rasheedah Phillips, Managing Attorney at Community Legal Services and Co-Chair of the Task Force's Housing Work group; and other legal aid advocates and clients. Click here to review a video of the hearing. Click here to read a summary of the scope of the eviction crisis and unmet need.

Testimony:

Chancellor Deborah Gross, Philadelphia Bar Association

Catherine Carr, Co-Chair of the Civil Gideon and Access to Justice Task Force; Representative of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel; and Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Rasheedah Phillps, Managing Attorney at Community Legal Services and Co-Chair of the Task Force's Housing Work group

Testimony of Linda Peyton, Legal Clinic for the Disabled

Publicity:

Pre-Hearing Publicity:

Inquirer: In Philly's housing court, the deck is stacked - but this woman won anyway

Inquirer: Commentary: Philly tenants should have access to legal aid 

NBC 10: Philadelphia City Council to Address City's 'Eviction Crisis' for Low-Income Renters 

PlanPhilly/WHYY: To reduce unfair evictions tenants need lawyersNorth Philly couple suing landlord's lawyer over right to evict

Slate: Fair Housing Still Has a Chance Under Trump

Post-Hearing Publicity:

Al Dia: PECO and PGW underfire amidst Philadelphia Eviction Crisis

KYW/CBS 3: Lawyers Could Ease Philadelphia ‘Eviction Crisis,' Council Members Hear

Newsworks: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/102451-op-ed-philly-should-relieve-eviction-crisis-by-funding-legal-representation-for-low-income-tenants

PlanPhilly/WHYY: Council hearing examines evictions, substandard housing, and possible solutions

Philadelphia Tribune: Eviction, tenants' right to counsel highlight at council hearing

Telemundo: Discuten desalojo de inquilinos en Filadelfia ("Tenant Evictions in Philadelphia Discussed")

The Huffington Post: Hearing Health and Eviction in Philadelphia

The Legal Intelligencer: The Eviction Crisis in Phila. Demands Lawyers

University City Review: OpEd: Philadelphia must protect Tenants' Rights