Meet the eviction defenders helping to keep tenants at home

What does fair look like in the hottest housing markets? That’s something many cities are grappling with, perhaps none more than San Francisco.

News Story (California)

Martin Kuz
Christian Science Monitor
July 30, 2019

Tags: Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Assistance to the Elderly (LAE) (San Francisco)


Earlier this year, city officials in Newark, New Jersey, allocated funding to establish a right to counsel program. As similar proposals percolate in Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, and other cities, the discussions reflect a reconsideration of the balance – and tension – between landlord and tenant rights amid the country’s widening affordable housing gap.

San Francisco’s initiative links together a constellation of 11 legal aid groups that handle tenant-landlord disputes, including the AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Asian Law Caucus, and Legal Assistance to the Elderly. The public funding will support nearly 50 lawyers working on eviction cases, and the EDC will weigh assorted factors – age, ethnicity, and neighborhood, among others – to pair clients with the agency best suited to respond to their plight.

Some 3 million tenants in California meet the federal definition of “rent-burdened,” spending at least 30% of their income on rent, as the state copes with a housing shortage of 3.5 million units and the country’s largest homeless population. In San Francisco, where renters account for almost two-thirds of the city’s more than 880,000 residents, tenant advocates regard guaranteed legal counsel as one antidote to displacement.