WASHINGTON - RealEstateRama – Legal Services Corporation President Ronald S. Flagg called on state and local governments this morning to expand the use of eviction diversion and housing right-to-counsel programs to more quickly and fairly distribute already appropriated emergency rental assistance funds.
In remarks delivered at the Southeast Project Directors Association’s annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, Flagg noted that with the expiration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium, “Millions of Americans face the dire risk of losing their homes in the coming weeks. And with the loss of their homes, the health, the safety, the security and education of our neighbors are also at grave risk. And these risks fall disproportionately on communities of color.”
Flagg noted that Congress has appropriated “about $45 billion dollars of emergency rental assistance to enable tenants to pay their rent and landlords to pay their mortgages. Yet, to date, only about 10% of those funds had reached tenants or landlords.”
“Every state and local government in America should be distributing those funds promptly,” he added, pointing to eviction diversion and right-to-counsel programs as models.
“Dozens of court systems around the country, including those in Durham, North Carolina; St. Paul, Minnesota; Lansing, Michigan; Boston; and Philadelphia, have created eviction diversion programs that provide time for tenants and landlords to access emergency rental assistance and reduce the risk of rendering thousands of families homeless in the midst of an ongoing health crisis,” he explained. “Those programs serve as models for metro areas around the country to adopt.”
Flagg also noted that housing right-to-counsel programs are having an impact.
“[I]n the last few years, we have seen right to counsel programs for housing cases in places like Cleveland, Minneapolis, New York, and San Francisco that have — in every location — substantially reduced the number of families losing their homes,” he said. “Again, these programs serve as models that other jurisdictions can adopt to make sure people facing the risk of eviction have a fair shot in eviction cases.”
The nation’s legal aid lawyers play a key role in making these programs successful.
“America’s legal aid providers are on the front lines in ensuring the success of these solutions — helping to ensure that emergency rental assistance reaches the tenants and landlords who so desperately need that support; and helping to ensure that eviction diversion programs and right to counsel programs work the way they are designed to work,” Flagg said.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.