Lawyers: Bulwark against Inequality and Gentrification?

Lawyers help to prevent eviction and foreclosure, saving people from dislocation, preserving communities, and preventing homelessness and the downward spiral that comes when a family loses its home.


Ray Brescia
Huffington Post
April 11, 2016

Tags: Housing: Eviction


How to fill the “justice gap”: the yawning chasm between the need for lawyers and the availability of affordable lawyers or free lawyers for those who cannot afford them? There are many ways. Providing volunteer lawyers is one mechanism, where lawyers at private firms work on a pro bono basis. Low-cost options are now being explored, with lawyers working in an on demand fashion, in limited ways, to provide guidance and some level of representation, if not full representation in court. But there simply is no substitute for a lawyer, provided at government expense, who will help defend a low- or middle-income person’s home. Certainly this would be expensive, but, as it turns out, such funding would more than pay for itself.

A just-released study of the potential benefits of providing lawyers for tenants making up to 200% of poverty—so the poor and the working poor—shows that a roughly $200 million investment to provide a lawyer for every qualifying tenant facing eviction in New York City would save over half a billion dollars in money spent on shelter for the homeless and the other costs associated with evictions.