WASHINGTON, June 25, 2021 — The American Bar Association is collaborating with the White House to develop strategies to provide vulnerable families access to counsel, divert evictions and connect renters and landlords to available resources.
The effort was announced by the Biden administration June 24 to protect renters and homeowners still affected by the pandemic and the effects of the economic shocks that followed.
One part of the effort is the convening of a summit, with the Legal Services Corporation and the National Conference of Bar Presidents, of local government, judicial, legal and community leaders from 50 cities to develop local community solutions to keep people in their homes and prevent unnecessary evictions. The summit will be held Wednesday, June 30.
The White House Summit on Eviction Prevention will develop strategies to provide needed assistance to renters and landlords. The American Rescue Plan, legislation aimed at helping Americans out of this crisis, allocated $21.5 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance to help renters cover back rental payments and assist landlords struggling to cover their mortgage payments. Combined with $25 billion allocated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a total of $46 billion is available to help state and local governments prevent evictions with strategies that strongly encourage alternatives to evictions.
“It is essential that lawyers and court systems step up to help prevent housing loss among struggling families and stabilize small property owners,” said ABA President Patricia Lee Refo. “They have a critical role to help ensure that rental assistance gets distributed to landlords and tenants it was intended to protect.”
Across the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic caused catastrophic job and wage loss that threatened the housing stability and health of renter households as well as the livelihood of property owners. A report released June 23 by the ABA and the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program identified best practices to divert eviction filings and enhance housing stability. It provides a checklist of considerations for effectively designing eviction prevention and diversion programs The report was coordinated through the Eviction Committee of the ABA Task Force on Legal Needs Arising from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.
Among other findings, the research showed widespread buy-in for eviction prevention efforts, with more than 70% of the landlords inclined to address issues of tenant nonpayment outside of court. The study determined that some of the best diversion programs — where local legal systems require landlords and tenants to seek mediation — incorporated full or limited legal representation; a legal hotline or help desk; tenant rights and/or education programs; rental or cash assistance; and pre- or post-filing mediation services to parties.
The report noted that the views represent the opinions of the authors and have not been approved by the ABA House of Delegates or the ABA Board of Governors and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the position of the association or any of its entities.
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