A Virginia coalition working to reduce evictions in the state released a list of recommendations on Tuesday. The Campaign to Reduce Evictions, an arm of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, outlined more than 30 ideas for curbing evictions.
The draft calls on state leaders to pump more money into affordable housing, raise the minimum wage and provide more tenants legal help in housing court. Karl Doss with the Virginia Bar Association recalled a recent study by the National Center for State Courts that showed tenants who don’t have a lawyer lose their eviction cases at twice the rate of tenants who are represented.
“Access to council is substantial,” Doss said. “But we have two obstacles, number one, legal aid resources are limited.”
Doss says the campaign’s legal working group suggests increasing tenants’ access to legal counsel. And that includes finding more private attorneys who are willing to volunteer their time.
There is no constitutional requirement that tenants facing eviction be provided legal assistance.
Last summer, New York became the first city to guarantee that right a right to low-income tenants.
Virginia’s Campaign to Reduce Evictions convened this summer after a New York Times article highlighted alarming eviction rates in Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.
Christie Marra, a staff attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center says a high priority for the group is creating education programs and resources to help tenants understand their rights and responsibilities.
“We can pass all the great laws in the world,” Marra said. “But if nobody gets educated on them, then the status quo continues.”
Marra said a final draft of recommendations will be released at the end of the year.
To read the draft recommendations, click on the links below.