Both state and city lawmakers are working on legislation that will provide lawyers to low-income renters who are at risk of losing their homes. The Baltimore Sun reported that Del. Sandy Rosenberg and Baltimore City Councilperson Robert Stokes are drafting two separate bills, hoping that this initiative will ease the legal pressure of eviction.
Industry data shows that 33% of renters move every year, but many others are pushed out of their homes when they are not able to make rent. According to The Baltimore Sun about 340,000 people in Maryland who are facing eviction are unable to afford legal representation. And about 84% of these actions were landlord-tenant related.
City Council President Bernard C. Young said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun that the Baltimore city government is looking to other cities, such as New York City, that have established similar efforts. He also stated that the mayor has not yet been clued in on the initiative.
“We’re looking at whether we can do something similar,” he said. “We have to figure out where the money is going to come from. It’s something we can talk to the state about.”
Baltimore is just one of the cities around the country facing an affordable housing crisis, something that middle and upper class homeowners and renters may not understand. While a Houzz survey found that 60% of homeowners plan to remodel their master bathroom, home ownership luxuries like this are not available to many Maryland residents. Many are just concerned about being able to afford next month’s rent. Even seemingly basic tasks like window replacement can cost between $300 and $700, something that is totally unreachable in low-income areas.
The Baltimore Sun reports that struggles to meet rent led to 70,000 eviction notices annually and 7,000 actual evictions. But simply having the need for legal representation is not enough. Rosenberg said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun that the task force leading this initiative is yet to bring in support from other legislators.
“We have been unable to generate the political support which is essential to get the financial support to move forward,” she said.
While this specific effort is still ramping up in local government, Baltimore residents have been mobilizing in favor of more responsible housing policies. City Paper reports that Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson faced protesters during two housing events in June. One protester allegedly told Carson that he was undermining the needs of low-income families in the area.
“Stop telling poor people that they should be comfortable without affordable housing,” the protestor, who declined to give City Paper her name, said to Carson.
The “tenant legal assistance fund” bills being drafted are expected to turn to a vote in the next election cycle. Young told The Baltimore Sun that funding is the largest obstacle at the moment.
“We have to figure where the money is going to come from.”