Pro Bono News
This Year, the DHA has Filed 30 Times More Eviction Cases Than Its Raleigh Counterpart. It's Promising Reform. (NC)
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
- Indy Week
This Year, the DHA has Filed 30 Times More Eviction Cases Than Its Raleigh Counterpart. It's Promising Reform.
"On Monday, following revelations last week that the Durham Housing Authority had filed 540 eviction cases in the first six months of 2019—compared to eighteen filed in the same timeframe by its Raleigh counterpart, according to a Legal Aid attorney—the agency promised reforms.
“For the first six months of this year, the DHA filing rate has been triple that of 2016 and thirty times higher than the Raleigh Housing Authority’s filing rate for the same six-month period,” Peter Gilbert, supervising attorney of Durham’s Eviction Diversion Program, wrote in a July 10 letter to Dan Hudgins, who chairs the DHA’s board of commissioners.
Of those 540 proceedings, 20 percent have been for nonpayment of the DHA’s $50 minimum monthly rent, says Sarah D’Amato, an attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Durham office. And most of those facing eviction are single black women, Gilbert says.
That stands to reason. A majority of the families who rely on the DHA for housing are headed by single black women. The average DHA tenant makes about $13,000 a year, Hudgins says, and more than 90 percent are black. Eighty-two percent are families, most led by single women.
Hudgins says board members raised the eviction issue with Anthony Scott, the DHA’s CEO, on July 10. While only a “small number” of public housing residents facing eviction were actually removed from their homes, Hudgins says, Scott agreed that changes need to be made.
Among the reforms the agency announced this week: having the DHA’s general counsel review the tenant’s case before filing for eviction; partnering with the city’s Eviction Diversion Program to help at-risk families; creating hardship exemptions and alternative means for tenants to pay their rent; and training DHA staffers to guide tenants facing eviction to resources offered by county social services.
Scott, who said in a press release that the “comprehensive changes” were made after “meeting with our tenants and community housing advocates,” could not be reached for comment.
The reforms took effect on August 12. Already, the DHA appears to be slowing the rate at which it seeks eviction. Of the forty-seven eviction cases filed in Durham County this month, only one came from the DHA. In that case, a resident at McDougald Terrace has been ordered to leave because her juvenile son was charged with shooting another child in the eye with a BB pistol..."