All about Detroit's tenant right to counsel

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01/01/2024, Miscellaneous, Housing - Evictions

UPDATE City releases video, report promoting RTC


A new video released by the City of Detroit highlights some of the tenants and attorneys involved in Detroit's eviction RTC program.  Additionally, a 2023 report found that 45.7% of represented tenants remained in their homes, while 100% of subsidized tenants who were represented retained their housing subsidy.  For tenants who relocated, all were able to obtain more than the statutory minimum time to move.


UPDATE: Article takes City to task for failure to invest more federal funds in RTC


An article in the American Bar Association's Journal of Affordable Housing by Tonya Phillips, Project Leader for the Detroit RTC Coalition, argues that the City has an opportunity to invest more American Rescue Plan funds in the City's enacted tenant right to counsel but has failed to do so.


UPDATE: RTC program funding increased!


The new Detroit budget increases funding for the tenant right to counsel program from $12 million to $18 million, using ARPA funds to do so.


UPDATE: RTC program launched


Michigan Public Radio reports that the right to counsel program launched at the start of March 2023.


UPDATE: City misses implementation deadline, but finally establishes legal services provider and program manager


As was widely reported, the City of Detroit missed the 10/1/22 deadline to launch the right to counsel, but finally announced that United Community Housing Coalition has been selected to be the principal legal services provider and April Faith-Slaker (formerly of the Harvard Access to Justice Lab) has been hired to be the Executive Director of the newly-created Office of Eviction Defense. 


Amidst the delays, a piece in Metro TImes highlighted some grim statistics from the City that indicated how renters have felt the brunt of the City's delay:


  • 1/3 of the City residents live in poverty;
  • 34% of renters are severely cost burdened (i.e., spending more than 50% of their income on rent);
  • 21% of renters face eviction annually;
  • Pre-RTC, only 4.8% of tenants had access to counsel, compared to 83.2% of landlords.


UPDATE: RTC gains additional funding; related report released


The Detroit News reports that the Gilbert Family Foundation will be putting $13 million into Detroit's eviction right to counsel, $12 million for services and $1 million for evaluation.


Addtionally, Stout has released a report on the costs/benefits for an eviction right to counsel in Detroit.  The report found that only 4% of Detroit tenants have access to representation, compared to 83% of landlords.  It estimates that "at least 12 percent of Detroit renter households that experienced an eviction filing likely migrated out of the city for reasons related to an eviction filing" and that "With an annual investment of approximately $16.7 million in a right to counsel, Detroit may recognize economic benefits of at least an estimated $58.8 million."



UPDATE: City of Detroit passes right to counsel ordinance!


In May 2022, the Detroit City Council enacted an ordinance guaranteeing counsel for tenants facing eviction who are at 200% or below of the federal poverty level, and it will also cover mortgage and property tax foreclosures.  The law will be initially funded by $6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as private funding of $12 million over 3 years.


Prior to enactment, only 5% of Detroit tenants facing eviction had access to legal representation, compared to 83% of landlords.


The enactment was covered by the Detroit Free Press, WDET, Fox 2Michigan Public Radio, and Michigan Advance.


UPDATE: Ordinance has hearing, gains support


Detroit's proposed ordinance providing tenants with a right to counsel went through its first round of hearings.  The Detroit Free Press and Metro Times have more. 


A Detroit Free Press Op-Ed penned by a member of the paper's editorial board supported the ordinance.


UPDATE: Advocates hold community meeting on right to counsel


The Detroit Right to Counsel Coalition held a community meeting [video link] to discuss the need for a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction, data on the costs/benefits for Detroit, and more. 


UPDATE: New policy brief urges tenant right to counsel as way of avoiding blight in Detroit


Poverty Solutions, an initiative of the University of Michigan, has released a policy brief called Stopping the Eviction Machine in Detroit.  It documents a "process of foreclosure, speculation, eviction, and eventual demolition exacerbated blight and instability in many of Detroit’s neighborhoods."  Among the policy solutions it recommends is a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction.


UPDATE: Ford Motor Co., others talk support for right to counsel


A couple of articles have touched on efforts in Detroit to establish a right to counsel.  Law360 profiled corporate leaders working on access to justice issues, and discusses Ford Motor Corporation’s commitment to getting a right to counsel passed.  And the Detroit Free Press discusses a pending ordinance that would "service 20% of individuals facing evictions each year for the next five years at a cost of $4 million."

Background: Detroit holds summit on a right to counsel for tenants


A summit was convened in Detroit to explore the right to counsel in eviction cases.  The summit featured panels of City officials, funders, clients, and experts from around the country.  NCCRC Coordinator John Pollock served on one of the panels, as did Andy Scherer (RTCNYC), Jordan Dressler (NYC Office of Civil Justice), Hazel Remesch (Legal Aid Society of Cleveland) and Abby Staudt (Legal Aid Society of Cleveland).  Stout, which was one of the conveners of the event, has created a summit resources webpage featuring resources from other jurisdictions that were shared with the Detroit attendees.  


The summit was covered by The Detroit NewsDeadline Detroit, and Bridge Magazine.   

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes



NCCRC Coordinator John Pollock participated in the panel discussion and the NCCRC advised advocates and policymakers throughout the process.