May 18, 2020
Contact: Matt Hill, Public Justice Center, (410) 625-9409, email
Charisse Lue, Public Justice Center, (410) 625-9409, email
Molly Amster, Jews United for Justice, (301) 529-3875, email
Reena Shah, Maryland Access to Justice Commission, (443) 703-3037, email
Today’s reports show:
Baltimore, MD – A pair of newly published reports from Stout Risius Ross, LLC (Stout), and Tim Thomas, PhD, of the University of California at Berkeley’s Evictions Study and Urban Displacement Project find drastic racial and gender disparities in Baltimore evictions and show that an annual investment of $5.7 million in a right to counsel for Baltimore tenants facing eviction would yield $35.6 million in benefits or costs avoided to the city and state.
The reports come as Baltimore City faces a rising wave of eviction actions due to COVID-19 with no comprehensive relief on the horizon. With 125,000 renter households, the City sees almost 140,000 eviction cases annually, resulting in approximately 70,000 eviction warrants and an eviction rate almost 2.5 times the national average. The eviction data analysis, led by Dr. Thomas reveals that Baltimore tenants in historically segregated neighborhoods and those in gentrifying areas face the highest risk of eviction.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, as Maryland pushes towards a 25% unemployment rate and a 20% rent delinquency rate, housing advocates warn that temporary moratoria do not address the systemic imbalances of power between landlords and tenants that drive Baltimore’s high eviction rates in part. As it stands now, 96% of landlords have lawyers in eviction cases, while only 1% of tenants do.
The Stout report makes the case to address high rates of eviction in Baltimore City by guaranteeing a right to counsel for tenants. This report shows a right to counsel in evictions cases is a proven, cost-effective means of reducing the disruptive displacement caused by eviction actions. Findings from today’s report include:
The Stout report, funded by a grant from the Abell Foundation, shows that guaranteeing a right to counsel in eviction cases will not only level out this imbalance of power between landlords and tenants, but it will ensure many families can stay in their homes and save the city money over time. To avoid a housing catastrophe, advocates demand that right to counsel, rental assistance, and permanently affordable housing be central to the COVID-19 response.
Evictions perpetuate racial segregation and exacerbate displacement in Baltimore neighborhoods. Dr. Thomas’ analysis of City eviction data shows that the number of Black women evicted is 3.9 times higher (296% more) than the number of white men evicted. Black household eviction is three times higher (195% more) than the white household eviction count. According to Dr. Thomas, “Our demographic estimates show a massive racial disparity making evictions a civil rights issue related to contemporary discrimination in housing access, displacement, and economic inequality linked to the legacies of segregation, policies, and practices directed against persons of color.” A right to counsel will impact the lives of Baltimore’s Black residents, who make up nearly two-thirds of all City renters. The data analysis and interactive map are available at https://evictions.study/maryland/report/baltimore.html
“The time to act is now,” said Public Justice Center attorney Matthew Hill. “We need to provide immediate relief to tenants across the city who are facing eviction. This means extending and expanding the eviction moratorium, increased rental assistance, and increased legal representation for tenants facing eviction right now. Baltimore’s sister cities like Philadelphia, Newark, and Cleveland are proving that right to counsel works. COVID-19 has exposed our inadequate housing policies, but we now have the chance to correct this injustice and the disparate impact on Black families with cost-effective solutions to rebuild our housing economy.”
Acknowledgement: The Stout report was made possible with the support of the Abell Foundation, www.abell.org. The Abell Foundation is dedicated to the enhancement of the quality of life in Maryland, with a particular focus on Baltimore.
The Stout Risius Ross report is available at: http://bmorerentersunited.org/rtc/stoutreport
Dr. Timothy Thomas’s report on eviction demographics is available at https://evictions.study/maryland/report/baltimore.html.
Baltimore Right to Counsel is supported by the Baltimore Renters United coalition and partners, https://bmorerentersunited.org, including over 20 organizers, advocates, and tenant groups:
Public Justice Center
Jews United for Justice
Maryland Access to Justice Commission
Right to Housing Alliance
Homeless Persons Representation Project
Disability Rights Maryland
ACLU of Maryland
Bolton House Residents Association
Pro Bono Resource Center
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
Fair Development Roundtable
Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
Advocates for Children and Youth
Health Care for the Homeless
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law
Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
Civil Justice Network
Maryland Center on Economic Policy
Greater Baltimore Democratic Socialists of America
Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland
Baltimore Healthy Start Community Action Network
National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel
Social Work Commuity Outreach Services at the University of Maryland School of Social Work
Stout study provides concrete recommendation to protect residents. Robert C. Embry, Jr., President of the Abell Foundation, said “The Abell Foundation is pleased to fund this study, which definitively documents the effectiveness of free legal counsel in preventing evictions of low-income tenants. By calculating the high opportunity costs of tenants not having legal counsel in eviction cases, the report points to a concrete recommendation to protect our most vulnerable residents from unnecessary housing insecurity.”
Legal representation matters even more after COVID-19. Reena Shah, Executive Director of the Maryland Access to Commission, said: “A massive wave of evictions in the wake of the COVID- 19 will further destabilize our state and thwart efforts at post-pandemic recovery and economic stabilization. The only legal way to get an eviction in Maryland is through a court order and the fact that tenants do not have legal representation in their court cases 99% of the time leads to evictions. Attorneys can and do make a difference. Providing a right to counsel in eviction cases goes to the heart of the problem and offers a solution that not only saves money, but has been proven to be effective. This is exactly the kind of solution policy-makers should be pursuing to protect public health and stabilize our economy post-pandemic.”