Philly Council passes Right to Counsel, giving free legal representation to tenants who are evicted

Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a bill Thursday that will provide free legal representation to low-income tenants facing eviction, all but cementing Philadelphia on a list of cities that have strengthened renters’ rights amid what many say is a growing national eviction problem.

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Caitlin McCabe
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 14, 2019

Tags: Housing: Right to Counsel

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


The bill now heads for Mayor Jim Kenney, who is expected to sign it before the end of the year. Once he does, it is anticipated the program will be phased in over several years as funding and staffing are increased.

The legislation, introduced by Councilwoman Helen Gym, supplies legal representation to tenants whose annual gross income does not exceed $24,980 for a single person and $51,500 for a family of four. Any renters who meet income guidelines in Philadelphia — including those living in housing owned and managed by the Housing Authority — are eligible for representation. Tenants will be represented by nonprofit legal services.

Tenant advocates across the country have warned in the last few years that the nation is facing an eviction epidemic, created in part by escalating housing costs, diminishing numbers of affordable units, stagnating wages, and an aging supply of homes. Author and sociologist Matthew Desmond estimates that 2.3 million eviction notices were filed in the United States in 2016 — four every minute.