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Advocacy seeks to address coming wave of pandemic-related evictions

June 10, 2020: Even before COVID-19, Baltimore’s eviction rate was high – nearly 2.5 times the national average. The pandemic is expected to multiply these numbers, as lost jobs and medical expenses make it difficult to pay the rent. The PJC’s Human Right to Housing Project and allies are advocating to stem the tide of evictions expected when the courts reopen for eviction actions in July. Below are a few of the ways we’ve been working to keep tenants in their homes and to move folks who are homeless out of shelters.

Right to counsel in eviction cases in Baltimore
We launched a campaign to provide Baltimore tenants the right to an attorney in eviction cases with the release of a report that found a right to counsel would help 17,300 people avoid disruptive displacement. For an annual investment of $5.7 million in right to counsel, Baltimore City and the State of Maryland could realize $35.6 million in benefits or costs avoided.

Racial and gender disparities in eviction
We helped shape a new report that shows the number of Black women evicted in Baltimore is 3.9 times higher than the number of white men evicted. Establishing a right to counsel would help address this disparity.

Funding for rental assistance and legal representation in eviction court
We are advocating with local and state leaders to invest in helping tenants weather the crisis. Baltimore City recently committed $13 million to help renters weather the pandemic. We also joined CASA and others during a #CancelTheRent town hall to call on Governor Larry Hogan to provide rental assistance to Marylanders.

Passing the Renter Relief Act
We co-led a coalition to support the Baltimore City Renter Relief Act, CB 20-0526, which prohibits landlords from charging late fees and increasing the rent during the pandemic emergency. The law passed the Baltimore City Council and was signed by the Mayor on May 18, 2020.

Outreach and Education
The PJC has participated in numerous Zoom calls to educate tenants and the general public about the rights of renters during the pandemic emergency (The next one is on June 18). We have created and disseminated know-your-rights information through our website and social media accounts.

Empty the Shelters Campaign
We have supported the “Empty the Shelters” campaign led by Housing Our Neighbors and the Fair Development Roundtable to advocate with the City and State that all persons in homeless shelters and encampments be provided immediate access to hotels and other non-congregate housing. So far, over 400 households have been moved from shelters to hotels in Baltimore City.