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June 30, 2021

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo moderates White House panel on eviction prevention programs

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2021 – American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo today moderated a panel discussion at the White House Summit on Eviction Prevention that focused on the elements of successful eviction prevention programs aimed at keeping millions of renters in their homes following the expiration of the nationwide ban on evictions on July 31.

One in seven Americans report being behind on their rent, while landlords owed rent are trying to keep up their properties and pay their mortgages. A wave of evictions is predicted to begin when the Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions, enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic devastation, expires next month.  

Refo’s panel, Coordinating Eviction Diversion and Emergency Rental Assistance, focused on court and community-based eviction prevention programs that provide landlords and tenants with access to rental assistance outside of the court system.  

Gene Sperling, coordinator for the American Rescue Plan, which is providing billions for emergency rental assistance to help renters cover back payments and assist landlords struggling to cover their bills, praised Refo as “inspirational to the process” that led to the summit.

“The White House Summit came about because of an overwhelming willingness to work together -- from housing advocates, to those running rental assistance programs in communities, to individuals and organizations fighting for racial justice, to legal services groups, to the leadership of the American Bar Association,” said Sperling. “We are in a race against time and must accelerate the work of state and local governments to distribute emergency rental assistance funds and prioritize eviction diversion programs to help deliver deeply needed relief to renters and landlords and keep people in their homes.”

Refo said that the American Bar Association has been working on the eviction crisis for more than a year and cited a report released June 23 by the ABA and the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program that identified best practices to divert eviction filings and enhance housing stability. She welcomed the Biden-Harris administration’s leadership on this “deeply important issue.”

“I am simply here to say the lawyers of America are here to do our part,” said Refo. “We stand ready to help.”

Panelists included:

  • Rasheedah Phillips, managing attorney of housing policy at the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
  • Hon. Bridget Mary McCormack, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice
  • Rene Solis, chief program officer at BakerRipley, a social services organization that administers a successful rental assistance program in Houston
  • Winn Companies President and CEO Gilbert Winn, president and CEO of the Winn Companies, the largest operator of affordable housing in the U.S.

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