Report: Universal Access to Legal Counsel Could Help Prevent Evictions in PA
Thursday, July 29, 2021
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- As housing advocates prepare for the end of the CDC's eviction moratorium Saturday, a new report showed expanding access to legal representation for low-income tenants could help prevent many of them from losing their homes.
The report, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, found removing barriers would provide an additional 17,000 at-risk families with counsel in eviction proceedings.
Patrick Cicero, executive director of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, said the program at full implementation would cost about $20 million a year, but there would be significant cost savings when housing stability is possible.
"Individuals who are entitled to access to other resources often have significantly improved access to those resources when they're represented by counsel," Cicero contended. "Because counsel can help them navigate, for example, the emergency rental assistance program that is currently rolled out in Pennsylvania."
The study also found if implemented, the program would decrease eviction filings by 5% each year.
Rhonda Mays, director of finance for the Fair Housing Council of the Capital Region, said the organization has received lots of requests recently for assistance paying back rent due to income loss because of the pandemic.
She argued with eviction cases looming, making sure tenants have a lawyer is crucial.
"Legal representation is a critical component," Mays asserted. "Especially in the low- to moderate-income community that just doesn't have access to be able to afford an attorney to begin with."
Cicero added a second phase of the study will look at the direct economic benefits of universal access to eviction counsel in Pennsylvania.
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