Many Renters Who Face Eviction Owe Less Than $600

Many Renters Who Face Eviction Owe Less Than $600

"Among the millions of recent eviction cases researchers have begun to compile across the country, there are a startling number of modest sums. There are dozens of families in Texas evicted with money judgments — unpaid rent, late fees, court costs — totaling $516. There are multiple families in Cumberland County, N.C., who owed all of $301. There is a household in Providence, R.I., whose 2016 court record shows a debt of just $127.

Such relatively small sums suggest that, for all of the intractable problems of poverty and affordable housing driving the nation’s eviction crisis, a little intervention could help many people. And politicians in Washington increasingly have such ideas in mind: court translators, more legal aid, mediation — even emergency rent assistance.

One bill, introduced in the Senate on Thursday by a Democrat, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and a Republican, Rob Portman of Ohio, would create a federal grant program to fund local emergency aid for tenants at risk of eviction. The bill, which would also establish a national database tracking eviction cases, is the latest in a series of federal proposals aimed at a problem that touches high-cost coastal cities and smaller towns alike.

Several Democratic senators — Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland — introduced a bill this fall that would create federal grants for landlord-tenant mediation programs and translators. In the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has introduced a bill that would fund legal aid in states and cities that establish a right to counsel for tenants that is akin to a new mandate in New York City.

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And in the Democratic primary, an anti-eviction agenda is now practically a required element of candidates’ housing plans. Bernie Sanders supports a national “just cause” standard, limiting the grounds on which a landlord can evict a tenant. Cory Booker wants to prevent consumer reporting agencies from listing eviction cases won by the tenant. Amy Klobuchar wants to create new kinds of savings accounts that renters could tap in an emergency..."

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  • Housing