Philly renters guaranteed lawyers in eviction court under new City Council bill

If Philadelphia Councilwoman Helen Gym has her way, many more renters facing eviction will be represented by a lawyer when they have their day in court.

News Story (Pennsylvania)

Jake Blumgart
WHYY (PA)
May 9, 2019
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Tags: Housing: Eviction, Housing: Right to Counsel

Organizations mentioned/involved: Philadelphia Bar Association


DETAILS

In Philadelphia, Gym has made landlord-tenant court reform a central part of her policy platform. Two years ago, she secured $500,000 for renter assistance in court, which she framed as a step toward the right to counsel. Last year, she won an increase to $850,000. In the current budget negotiations, the Kenney administration recommended reducing it to $500,000.

The Philadelphia Bar Association recently released a study showing that it would cost $3.5 million annually to provide legal aid to all tenants in eviction cases. But their estimates were based on a lower threshold, so Gym’s more generous bill would likely require between $4 million and $5 million.

Much of the current funding Gym has secured is used to fund non-lawyer tenant assistance, including a staffed hotline for renters and a help desk to aid those seeking to navigate the courtroom. That means more than $5 million annually would be required, in future, to fully fund the suite of eviction assistance services.