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Detroit City Council to consider funding legal aid for low-income people facing eviction

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The Detroit City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed “Right to Counsel” ordinance.

The ordinance would pay for legal assistance for low-income Detroiters facing issues related to eviction, tax foreclosure, and land contracts.

Attorney Tonya Meyers Phillips is a project leader for the Detroit Right to Counsel Coalition, an advocacy group supporting the measure. She said before the pandemic began, the city averaged had one of the highest eviction rates per capita in the nation.

“Even now, after the pandemic, the rate has gone down somewhat with emergency rental assistance programs being available. But unfortunately, we see that it's going back up again," Phillips said.

The proposed legislation is modeled after similar ordinances in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

Phillips said in those other cities, the rate of evictions has gone down.

“When an individual goes to court, they are much more likely to win their case," she said. "And even if you don't quote-unquote 'win the case,' that individual's far more likely to receive additional time to relocate to another residence safely."

Officials in the administration of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan have said the ordinance, as written, would send the city back into state financial oversight. City Council President Mary Sheffield said she’s planning to introduce changes before the hearing that would address those concerns.

Laura Herberg is a reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.
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