Bill Would Provide Legal Assistance to Low-Income Tenants
Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) recently introduced the “Equal Opportunity for Residential Representation Act of 2017.” The bill is designed to help provide legal and supportive services to lower income families.
It would create a pilot program at HUD that would distribute grants to state-based organizations to provide legal representative assistance to families with incomes at or below 80 percent of their area medium income. A similar initiative was recently announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City. A report found that by providing legal representation to all low-income tenants facing eviction, the city would save more than $300 million annually, as the effort would reduce the number of tenants and families seeking housing in shelters. And a similar proposal was also introduced in the Massachusetts State House.
According to a written statement by Representative Ellison, low-income and working families are not guaranteed counsel in civil court, and legal representation in housing court could mean the difference between keeping one’s house and being evicted. “Every American deserves fair and equal representation under the law, whether in federal court or housing court. We should be following New York’s lead and make sure that a person’s ability to afford a lawyer does not dictate whether they end up deeper in poverty or homeless.”