City of Los Angeles explores housing right to counsel ordinance

08/11/2018, Legislation, Housing - Evictions

In June 2018, a motion was introduced to the City of Los Angeles Housing Committee asking it to examine the right to counsel in eviction cases.  The motion referenced the successful efforts in NYC and San Francisco.  In August 2018, the Housing Committee responded to the motion by recommending that the City explore a housing right to counsel ordinance.  The motion “direct[s] the Housing and Community Investment Department to develop recommendations for such a program and report back to the City Council within 120 days.”  Los Angeles has just under 55,000 eviction cases filed every year, and about 53,000 homeless people, and about 11% of the homeless cite eviction as the cause, according to LAist.  You can read more in Medium (which references the Shriver pilots data on the impact of housing representation), CurbedMynewsLA, and the LA Daily News, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition has a page devoted to the motion.


Previously, the right to counsel in evictions was approached from the fair housing angle.  A 2015 rule from the Obama Administration requires all cities to determine if they are "affirmatively furthering fair housing", which is a requirement of the federal Fair Housing Act.  In November 2017, the City of Los Angeles released its fair housing assessment, and one of the stated goals is to "Protect tenants’ legal rights through a 'Right to Counsel' Ordinance."   The assessment notes that evictions in the city dropped significantly after the passage of the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, suggesting that increased representation has reduced the rate of evictions, but the assessment notes the insufficiency of current state funding.  It then charges several city departments and the City Council with exploring such an ordinance.