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Detroit-based organizations will get $12 million to provide legal representation to Detroit-renters facing eviction

Defaulting renter with facemask receives letter giving notice of eviction from home on wooden table
Steve Heap/steheap - stock.adobe.com
Defaulting renter with facemask receives letter giving notice of eviction from home on wooden table

Three Detroit-based organizations will receive $12 million over three years to provide low-income Detroit renters facing eviction with legal representation through The Gilbert Family Foundation’s Detroit Eviction Defense Fund.

Announced on Monday, the receiving organizations are the United Community Housing Coalition, Michigan Legal Services and Lakeshore Legal Aid.

These organizations will manage the program’s administration, hiring and supporting lawyers, legal supervisors and legal aids who will be embedded in 36th District Court.

Residents can contact the organizations directly to participate.

Executive Director of the Gilbert Familiy Foundation Laura Grannemann said evictions are often more complicated than non-payment of rent. Legal representation, she says, can help renters advocate for better living conditions or negotiate more time even if they do get evicted.

"It helps everyone to ensure that that family does not experience homelessness or leave our city because that's a failure for everyone."

Families with a child in the home who make 50% of the Area Median Income or less are prioritized. 50% of Area Median Income in Detroit would be $35,800 for a family of two, $40,300 for a family of three and $44,750 for a family of four, according to the foundation’s press release.

But Grannemann said the organizations have the discretion to take on cases for additional vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities, seniors and individuals or families with housing vouchers.

An additional $1 million from the foundation was allocated to fund a long-term study into the efficacy of the program as well as the eviction defense ecosystem in Detroit.

“We really want to make sure that at the end of that three years, we can say, without any doubt, that this is the right, both social and economic investment for our community,” Grannemann said. “We intend over the course of that three years to be working with a academic partner, who will come alongside us and study the implementation of the program and evaluate the results of the program.”

The academic partner, she said, will be announced shortly.

This comes after The Detroit City Council unanimously approved an ordinance giving low-income people the right an attorney during eviction proceedings.

There were questions about long-term funding for the program. It launched with $6 million in federal Covid relief funds. The same three organizations were among the recipients.

The funding from the foundation is intended to build on this, according to a press release. Grannemann said this is why they were selected to receive the funds.

“In order to continue the progress that they have been able to make over the last couple of years through that funding that came as a result of the pandemic, these were the three organizations,” Grannemann said. “Not only did they have, an amazing track record and amazing history, they also have this foundation that they've been building from over the last couple of years."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit’s 36th district court handled on average around 30,000 eviction cases per year.

Sophia Kalakailo joined Michigan Radio in Sept. 2021 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying journalism and minoring in documentary production. She previously interned at Bridge Michigan and was an editor for The State News and The Eastern Echo covering a wide range of topics.
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