CITY EXPANDS RIGHT TO COUNSEL INITIATIVE TO SERVE MORE RESIDENTS LIVING IN POVERTY AND FACING EVICTION
Two New Reinvestment Fund Studies Show Impact of City’s Eviction Diversion and Right to Counsel Initiatives
December 1, 2023-PHILADELPHIA –Today the City announced that another zip code has been added to the existing four zip codes currently served under the Right to Counsel (RTC) initiative managed by the Division of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Since October 2023, low-income renters living in 19132 have been entitled to free legal representation through this City benefit program. DHCD also manages the City’s Eviction Diversion Program (EDP).
Renters can already receive RTC services if they live in 19134, 19144, 19139 or 19121. The addition of 19132 brings the total to five zip codes where expanded free legal counsel is available for tenants facing eviction. Philadelphians in the covered zip codes with incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level are eligible for RTC. Immigration status does not affect eligibility.
This expansion builds on the success of the initial rollout. The zip codes were selected by the City based on the results of the Reinvestment Fund’s analysis of need (eviction volume) and likely uptake (eviction filing rate and family poverty). The same methodology was used to select the latest zip code. The percentage of tenants receiving legal representation in RTC zip codes is expected to grow as tenants become more aware of this vital resource.
“Evictions overwhelmingly impact women and children, lead to greater levels of poverty and poorer housing conditions, and negatively affect the community as a whole,” said Eva Gladstein, First Deputy Managing Director. “I am grateful to DHCD and partner organizations for continuing to grow this important program that supports tenants, levels the playing field in Landlord-Tenant cases, and limits disruptive displacements.”
“DHCD is proud to oversee the Eviction Diversion Program and Right to Counsel for the City of Philadelphia and its residents,” said Melissa Long, Director of DHCD. “For over 40 years we have been on the frontline of housing needs in our city. Helping tenants and landlords reach agreements and giving access to free legal services to tenants in dire circumstances is an extension of our mission. I am pleased at the work we’ve done, and as we continue to work with our legislators at the local, state, and federal levels and to explain the need for additional funding for EDP and RTC, we can help even more tenants access housing they can afford.”
“City Council is committed to continuing its support of the Eviction Diversion and Right to Counsel programs,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “The most important affordable home or apartment that anyone can ever have is the one they already live in. And providing deserving Philadelphians with legal assistance to hopefully avoid eviction and to stay in their homes or apartments is an essential service that City Council supports strongly.”
Eligible renters have a Right to Counsel when facing:
- Eviction proceedings
- Administrative proceedings that could lead to the termination of the tenancy or eviction
- PHA housing subsidy termination proceedings
Right to Counsel is available for judicial proceedings (e.g., in Municipal Court) and administrative proceedings (e.g., in front of the Fair Housing Commission).
“We are grateful to the Mayor and City Council for their continued support of Right to Counsel and our other successful eviction prevention initiatives, which have made Philadelphia a national leader in stabilizing families and communities,” said Kadeem Morris, Co-Managing Attorney, Housing Unit, Community Legal Services (CLS). “Evictions are incredibly traumatic. Families become trapped in poverty, and experience disruptions in education, job loss, and adverse physical and mental health outcomes. However, when tenants have access to expert legal aid and other interventions, such as eviction diversion, communities are safer and healthier, children and families have more stability, and people across our city have greater opportunities to thrive. Thank you to the Mayor, City Council and DHCD for their commitment to preserving Philadelphia communities through homelessness prevention and expanded access to justice.”
DHCD worked with the Reinvestment Fund to review and analyze EDP and RTC.
The studies can be found here:
- This report only looks at two phases of EDP. Since the time of this study there have been changes to the program including the introduction of a financial component called Targeted Financial Assistance (TFA).
- EDP gives landlords and tenants involved in a dispute the opportunity to resolve their issues without going to court. This benefits the tenant by avoiding a filing on their record, the landlord by avoiding high turnover costs, and the court system by lessening the burden on an already crowded docket.
- This evaluation demonstrated that EDP played a role in curtailing eviction filings as the City emerged from the pandemic.
- Recording an agreement through EDP was associated with notably lower eviction filing rates than cases in which no agreement was achieved.
- Receipt of rental assistance appeared to be an important factor in whether an EDP case experienced a subsequent eviction filing, regardless of participation in mediation or reaching an agreement.
- Further study is needed to understand the impact of TFA and the long-term impact (of EDP on housing stability.
- This report only looks at the first two zip codes. RTC has expanded since this study was done.
- RTC expands access to justice and reduces the trauma of disruptive displacements. RTC is one piece of eviction prevention services, including EDP.
- The demographics of tenants receiving legal services were generally reflective of the populations disproportionately experiencing eviction, particularly Black women.
Tenants can go to phillytenant.org or call the Philly Tenant Hotline at (267) 443-2500 to access Right to Counsel and related services. Legal representation and support will be provided by Community Legal Services, SeniorLAW Center, Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Philly VIP, and the Tenant Union Representative Network.
To learn more about Right to Counsel and the recent study, please visit: https://www.phila.gov/services/property-lots-housing/get-free-legal-help-to-avoid-eviction/
To learn more about Eviction Diversion and the recent study, please visit: https://eviction-diversion.phila.gov/#/
For more information on DHCD, please visit phila.gov/dhcd