Kansas City Right To Counsel Program Is Helping Residents Stay Housed



Kansas City CALL Newspaper Inc



New Right to Counsel program providing strong voice for tenants facing eviction Hundreds of Kansas Citians are experiencing positive change thanks to the City’s new Right to Counsel Program. Implemented on June 1, 2022, the program offers free legal services to those on the verge of eviction. This summer, lawyers successfully completed 75 cases resulting in agreements with landlords, dismissals, or the opportunity for a judge to hear their case. Between June 1 to September 1, 2022 372 Cases Received, 243 Cases in Process, 75 Cases Resolved The program is a partnership with Legal Aid of Western Missouri, Heartland Center for Jobs, and Freedom and the UMKC School of Law. Assistance is offered to all Kansas City residents no matter what county they live in. The City is also working with Community Care Link to review and refer applicants to the appropriate organization. This is the 13th program of its kind in the nation. Prior to the pandemic, 99% of cases filed in Jackson County resulted in evictions. In the first three months of the Right to Counsel Program the City is seeing a drastic change. Initial data indicates having a lawyer paired with rental assistance shows an eviction rate less than 20%. “Growing up, my family faced evictions at a time when Kansas City did not have resources like the Tenants’ Right to Counsel program to help us stay housed. The stress and pain these situations caused my mother -- no one should have to face. We should do everything we can so families like mine, who may have been down on their luck, are not kicked out of their homes,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas. “Last year, I signed the Right to Counsel ordinance to help level the scales for those facing evictions in court. I’m proud to see the positive results of the program, which in the past three months, has hundreds of Kansas Citians who now have the opportunity to stay in their homes. This success is just the beginning and our work in finding innovative ways to combat housing instability will continue.” “The initial results from Kansas City’s Right to Counsel program are amazing,” said Housing and Community Development Department Director Jane Pansing Brown. “Counsel for landlords and tenants have been able to amicably resolve a significant number of cases through settlement or dismissal.” “One of the reasons I chose to champion Right to Counsel is to seek equity in an imbalanced system. In the first few months the program has been operating, positive results are being achieved and better outcomes against the damaging impacts of housing instability and eviction proceedings are being. We will continue to work to protect the basic human right of housing.” said Councilwoman Andrea Bough, the ordinance’s lead sponsor. “Thanks to bold leadership by the Mayor and City Council, Kansas City renters faced with eviction can count on the protections that come with a professional legal defense. United Way is proud to support this work, by connecting callers in need to an attorney and offer financial assistance,” Chris Rosson, President & CEO of the United Way of Greater Kansas City said. The Right to Counsel initiative continues the City’s mission to address housing insecurity, affordable housing and those experiencing houselessness. City initiatives so far include: Allocating $25 million to the City’s affordable housing trust fund to incentivize the creation of affordable housing units and other housing options within larger otherwise market-rate multifamily development projects Distributing $20.6 million in emergency rental assistance funds to nearly 4,400 households in Kansas City Using community input to develop a “Vision for Housing” that outlines the plan to create 10,000 new affordable housing units by 2027 Working to convert nearly 3,000 vacant lots and homes owned by the City’s Land Bank into affordable housing Creating the City’s first homelessness prevention coordinator Creating the City’s first tenant advocate positions Converting a former hotel into permanent supportive housing and emergency transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness