Black renters in Detroit will be among the largest beneficiaries of a new $13 million investment fund to help them from being evicted.
The Gilbert Family Foundation announced it would provide the money to the Detroit Eviction Defense Fund. That fund will deploy $4 million into the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), Michigan Legal Services, and Lakeshore Legal Aid. The nonprofits will provide Detroit renters facing eviction with legal representation for eviction proceedings.
The $12 million investment will back full legal access for all families with a child in the home who make 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) or less. This level of AMI in Detroit for a family of two is $35,800, $40,300 for a family of three, and $44,750 for a family of four. Officials estimate the investment will help up to 6,000 Detroit families annually over the three-year program. Most people using the benefits are Black residents dealing with “unscrupulous landlords.”
Another $1 million has been set apart to fund a long-term study to determine the program’s effectiveness and the eviction defense ecosystem in Detroit.
Organizers declare the defense fund is the largest private philanthropic investment for eviction Right to Counsel in the country.
Today, only 4% of Detroit tenants reportedly have access to representation, versus 83% of landlords. Claims state that landlords often evict tenants for reasons unrelated to rent not being paid. That includes a desire to boost those costs despite an existing rental or land contract agreement. Plus, tenants often retain rent legally because of structural and safety concerns with the home that must be addressed.
The fund comes after Detroit this month passed an ordinance giving mainly low-income renters at risk of eviction the right to have a lawyer defend them from that action.
“The Detroit Eviction Defense Fund will level the scales of justice for vulnerable renters, who deserve the opportunity to remain in their home and enjoy lasting housing stability,” stated Jennifer Gilbert, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation.
“We applaud the efforts of Mayor Duggan and Council President Mary Sheffield to successfully pass Detroit’s Right to Counsel ordinance and encourage others to join us in this work.”
Residents wanting to participate in the program can directly contact UCHC, Michigan Legal Services, and Lakeshore Legal Aid. The investment also allows those organizations to provide legal counsel to seniors, families with housing vouchers, individuals with disabilities, and other services.
The investment, too, is expected to generate an economic benefit of over $58.7 million to the city of Detroit, and people living in Detroit, based on a study by investment bank Stout Risius Ross L.L.C.