Rep. Ellison Introduces Equal Opportunity for Residential Representation Act
WASHINGTON –Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced the Equal Opportunity for Residential Representation Act of 2017 (H.R. 1146) which would create a pilot program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide grants to state-based organizations to provide legal and supportive services to low-income and working families at 80 percent or below of the Area Medium Income.
Low-income and working families are not guaranteed counsel in civil court, and legal representation in Tenant/Housing Court can mean the difference between keeping your house and being evicted. As America faces a shortage of affordable housing and rising rates of eviction in many cities, investing in affordable housing and common-sense solutions will prevent the trauma of homelessness and other socio-economic consequences of eviction and tenant-landlord conflicts. A recent study regarding New York City tenants facing eviction found that by providing legal representation to all low-income tenants, the city would save more than $300 million annually, as the effort would reduce the number of tenants and families seeking housing in shelters. New York City recently passed an initiative to ensure tenants with incomes under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level would have a right to an attorney in Tenant Court. A similar proposal was also introduced in the Massachusetts State House.
“Every American deserves fair and equal representation under the law, whether in federal court or tenant or housing court,” Rep. Ellison said. “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 poverty or homeless”