Evictions Down Under Right to Counsel Laws in New York and San Francisco
Two New York City council members are seeking to expand the city’s right to counsel law, which provides legal representation for tenants facing evictions, when early results show that the law is having a positive impact, according to a report in the nonprofit news outlet The City. Evictions are trending downward in New York, thanks to a range of tenant organizing efforts and new tenant protection laws, according to an analysis by the Community Service Society. Reductions are particularly sharp in zip codes where the right to counsel law has been implemented. In right to counsel zip codes, evictions are down 29 percent since 2017, compared to 18 percent citywide, according to the analysis. Councilmembers Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson are sponsoring laws that would expand New York City’s right to counsel to people earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line — currently it is capped at 200 percent — and require the city to coordinate education efforts with local community groups.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco (which implemented a right to counsel law last year), eviction filings are down and more tenants are able to remain in their homes even after facing an eviction filing. According to a press release from San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development shared information at a Board of Supervisors hearing this week that showed evictions are down 10 percent since last year. San Francisco’s right to counsel law has no income restrictions, but according to the press release, 85 percent of tenants represented under the program are low-income or extremely low-income. Preston’s office estimates that to fully implement the program, an additional 17 to 22 lawyers would need to be hired.
Public Housing Waitlist Will Reopen in Suburban Chicago
The Housing Authority of Cook County will open its waitlist for public housing in the suburbs surrounding Chicago for the first time in a decade, according to a WBEZ report. The authority currently provides housing vouchers to around 13,500 families that help pay rent on the private market, according to the report. It has around 5,000 people on the waitlist, but wants to let more people sign up, with the goal of ensuring that all available vouchers are in use at all times, the report says. The waitlist could double in size before it’s capped again.
“In the last several years, we’ve seen what’s called the suburbanization of poverty. Right now, we have as many poor people living outside the city of Chicago as there are inside the city,” Richard Monocchio, the authority’s executive director, told the station.
A number of studies over the past several years have shown that poverty is increasing in American suburbs. Meanwhile, housing has become more expensive in many cities and suburbs, and housing assistance programs are no match for the depth of the crisis. About 2 million people receive housing vouchers in the United States, but another 6 million or so are eligible, according to a 2018 report in Marketplace. The waitlist for public housing in Chicago proper is capped at 45,000 people, according to reports.
Delaware May Loosen Public Housing Restrictions for People With Convictions
Housing authorities in Delaware are planning a pilot program that will allow some returning citizens to live with their families in public housing, according to a report in Delaware Online. Restrictions on the books in state housing authorities are more stringent than federal guidelines and can prevent people with convictions from living in Delaware public housing for up to five years after release, depending on the severity of the crime, according to the report. Under the new program, which will be implemented at all five of the state’s housing authorities, some returning citizens “can be referred by the Department of Correction to the housing agency to join their family members as a guest in their unit,” the report says. Delaware officials have reported that about a quarter of inmates who are close to being released have nowhere to live, and about a third of homeless people in the state have previously been incarcerated, the report says. Under the program, if returning citizens observe all public housing rules for two years, they’ll be eligible to be placed on the lease. The program is an “experiment” aimed at opening more public housing units to people with criminal backgrounds, according to the report.
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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.