All About D.C.'s RTC pilots
11/02/2023, Legislation, Housing - Evictions
UPDATE: 2023 report shows positive results of representation; program revival announced
A report on the Civil Legal Counsel Projects Program (which were established by the Expanding Access To Justice Act) found that
Among active eviction cases closed during the current reporting period that received representation by an attorney, 81% of tenants retained possession of their units. Of those who moved, most did so of their own accord or as part of an agreement—notably, fewer than 5% of CLCPP clients with an active case for which the outcomes were known had a judgment entered against them that put them at risk for an actual lockout. Nearly 65% of the CLCPP cases closed in the current reporting period that 1) received services beyond intake, 2) had a complaint filed at the time of intake, and 3) had available outcome data were resolved by a dismissal, either from the Court or the landlord. This result can be attributed to two factors. First, at least half of the tenants whose cases were dismissed received rental assistance funds to help pay the back rent owed to the landlord and close the case, underscoring the critical role that ERAP funds continue to play in keeping DC tenants with low income housed. Second, the CLCPP partners collectively emphasized eviction defense strategies that held landlords accountable to the heightened filing requirements by arguing for dismissal in cases where the notices or complaints were technically deficient or improperly served.
Additionally, in November 2023 D.C. LEgal Aid announced the re-launching of the right to counsel pilot project. According to the announcement, "Legal services providers will send letters guaranteeing counsel to one out of every six tenants with subsidies against whom a publicly available eviction case has been filed and scheduled for November and December 2023."
In June 2016, D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie convened an official public roundtable to discuss the civil right to counsel and the expansion of access to justice in the District of Columbia. Following from the event, Councilmember McDuffie introduced B21-0879, the "Expanding Access To Justice Act Of 2016", which proposed to set up "civil right to counsel projects" that would expand representation for various types of eviction cases via grants made to D.C. legal aid providers. The Washington Post, Next City the Washington Informer, and Street Sense covered the release of the bill.
The legislation was in some ways a response to housing representation pilots that have been running in the District since 2015. Those pilots are a collaboration between Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Bread for the City, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. The pilot received over $300,000 in initial funding through the D.C. Bar Foundation, using money appropriated by the D.C. City Council.
On October 19, 2016, the bill had its first hearing (video link), in which a steady stream of advocates and affected community individuals testified in support of the bill over the course of several hours. The Washington Times covered the hearing. After the bill did not advance in 2016, it was re-introduced in 2017 as B22-0024, and in July 2017, the D.C. Council approved $4.5 million for the bill, with $3.9 milion set to be an ongoing appropriation and an additional $600,000 appropriated for 2017. Read press releases from bill sponsor Kenyan McDuffie here and here.
NCCRC worked with the legal aid community and the sponsor on bill drafting.