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March 07, 2019

Philadelphia Bar Association Statement on City of Philadelphia FY 2020 Budget

CONTACT: Kristofer Eisenla, LUNA+EISENLA media | 202-670-5747 (mobile)

“As the budget process moves forward, we urge our city leaders to work together” to fund a right to counsel for low-income tenants

The Philadelphia Bar Association, the oldest association of lawyers in the United States, today reacted to the release of the Mayor’s FY 2020 budget proposal, and introduction of legislation today in the City Council to authorize creation of a low-income tenant legal defense fund.

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Rochelle M. Fedullo released the following statement:

“Establishing a final city budget for this year is a multiple step process and today we are at the beginning stage. We welcomed the City Council’s introduction of legislation this morning calling for the creation of a fund improving access to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction. As the budget works through the legislative process, the Philadelphia Bar Association will continue to be there every step of the way helping to lead the effort to fully fund this proposal.

“Providing access to civil legal aid is one of the most effective measures to prevent evictions and homelessness, which result in significant cost savings and benefits for the city.

“As the budget process moves forward, we urge our city leaders to work together to take this critical step to bring Philadelphia into the national movement of providing a right to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction, and approve this allocation in the final budget. We remain hopeful that this critical funding becomes a reality for our city.”

According to a study commissioned by the association, “Economic Return on Investment of Providing Counsel in Philadelphia Eviction Cases for Low-Income Tenants,” if the City of Philadelphia invested $3.5 million per year to fund counsel for low-income tenants, the city would save $45.2 million per year in other costs and expenses. The study was performed pro bono by Stout Risius Ross, LLC, a leading valuation advisory, investment banking, dispute consulting and management consulting firm.

Stout determined that unrepresented tenants are disruptively displaced due to eviction in approximately 78 percent of cases, as compared with represented tenants, who are disruptively displaced due to eviction in only approximately 5 percent of cases. By being represented, approximately 14,418 low-income individuals each year would avoid being disruptively displaced.

New York City enacted legislation in 2017 providing universal access to legal aid to low-income tenants facing eviction. In June 2018, San Francisco enacted a right to counsel for all tenants facing eviction regardless of income, and Newark, New Jersey passed an ordinance to provide a right to counsel in December 2018. Other cities have also created various forms of right-to-counsel pilot projects for low-income tenants facing eviction.

The announcement comes on the eve of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s 2019 Chancellor’s Forum on Monday, March 11th bringing together Philadelphia city leaders to discuss the need for funding of a right to counsel for low-income residents facing eviction and its impact on the city.

To attend the Chancellor’s Forum, please register here.

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