Philly should relieve eviction crisis by funding legal representation for low-income tenants

The cost of representation for an eviction hearing is out of reach for too many Philly residents. Although 81 percent of landlords attend court with legal counsel, only 1 percent of low-income renters attend with legal representation.

Op-Ed (Pennsylvania)

Kathy Desmond
March 24, 2017

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel, Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia


Evictions increase instability and transience in neighborhoods like ours, struggling with a dwindling supply of quality affordable housing stock, leaving them vulnerable to violence and crime. The destabilization of households within those neighborhoods hurts children’s academic achievement and school attendance. If an evicted family enters the shelter system, the average length of stay is six months — at an average cost of $21,000.

Legal representation for low-income tenants protects residents against discrimination, unlawful evictions, and substandard housing. For every $1 spent on legal aid, $11 return to the economy. Leveraged with a more robust homelessness prevention program, it could save the City of Philadelphia hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.