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November 14, 2019

Philadelphia Bar Association Applauds City Council for Passage of Historic Right to Counsel Bill

CONTACT: Kristofer Eisenla | LUNA+EISENLA media kristofer@lunaeisenlamedia.com | 202-670-57-47

Philadelphia Bar Association Supported Legislation Places City at the Forefront of National Movement to Provide Low-Income Tenants with Right to Counsel

The Philadelphia Bar Association today commended the Philadelphia City Council for passing Bill No. 190386, Legal Representation in Landlord Tenant Court, launching Philadelphia into the forefront of the national movement of American cities providing a right to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction. The legislation was strongly supported by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

“This is a historic day for Philadelphia,” said Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Rochelle M. Fedullo. “We are thankful for the collaborative work of our partners, Community Legal Services, SeniorLAW Center, Philadelphia VIP, and other members of the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project, to help push for the passage of this legislation.”

“The creation of a right to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction is a sound and cost-effective solution to combat the devastating effects of our city’s eviction crisis and reduce the poverty rate. It will prevent homelessness and avert the trauma and harm to tenants and their families from being disruptively displaced. It will also stabilize and strengthen neighborhoods and improve and preserve the housing rental stock for low-income tenants across the city,” said Fedullo.

Despite being the sixth-largest city in the U.S., Philadelphia ranks fourth in total evictions, with over 20,000 filed each year. Evictions are complicated legal proceedings, which require legal help, but only 11% of tenants facing eviction have a lawyer, in contrast with 80% of landlords. Tenants who have legal help are 95% more likely to avoid homelessness.

“Our eviction rate is an urgent citywide crisis,” wrote Fedullo in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed co-authored with the co-chairs of the Association’s Civil Gideon and Access to Justice Task Force, Joseph A. Sullivan and Catherine C. Carr. “Evictions destabilize the lives of entire families and have consequences that ripple through whole communities. They are a root cause of homelessness and poverty and can result in job loss and mental and physical health issues. Evictions can result in children being torn from their families and placed into foster care. Those most affected by evictions in Philadelphia are most likely to be our city’s most vulnerable populations: black women with children, older people and those raising grandchildren, veterans, people with disabilities, and low-income households.”

In 2018, the Philadelphia Bar Association released a groundbreaking study conducted by Stout Risius Ross LLC, which found that if the City of Philadelphia invested $3.5 million per year to fund counsel for eligible low-income tenants facing eviction, the city would save $45.2 million per year in quantifiable eviction-related shelter, medical and social service costs and expenses, a return of over $12 for every $1 spent. A recent update by Stout found that if the city invested $5 million in counsel for low-income tenants with household incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty line, the City’s total estimated savings would be approximately $63 million.

Philadelphia now joins San Francisco, New York City, Cleveland and Newark, N.J. in the right to counsel movement. Similar legislation is advancing in Detroit, Los Angeles, Denver, and other cities across the country, and has been proposed in Congress.

To interview Chancellor Fedullo on today’s historic vote, contact Kristofer Eisenla at kristofer@lunaeisenlamedia.com or 202-670-5747

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