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Cleveland Creates Right to Counsel for Housing


Posted December 2, 2019
5:11 pm


First city in Ohio and Midwest to establish right

On October 1st, with Mayor Jackson’s signature, Cleveland created a right to counsel for low-income tenants with children.

The City of Cleveland found that the lack of legal counsel for low income tenants with children during eviction cases is a violation of a basic human right.  The new legislation ensures access to legal services for certain low-income tenants who face housing instability.

This effort grew from Legal Aid’s Housing Justice Alliance – a group Legal Aid created to promote legal representation for tenants facing evictions in Northeast Ohio. After initial funding and support from the Sisters of Charity Foundation to explore the idea, the Housing Justice Alliance formed an advisory committee.  Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and Councilman Anthony Brancatelli served as members on this advisory committee. Under their leadership, the Alliance's ideas evolved and informed the groundbreaking right to counsel legislation.

Pursuant to this legislation, effective June 30, 2020, legal counsel shall be provided to tenants at and below 100% of the federal poverty guidelines who have at least one child in the household. The United Way of Greater Cleveland will work with Cleveland City Council to lead the program, and United Way will contract with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland to provide the legal services.  Legal Aid will provide access to legal representation by its experienced staff, pro bono attorneys, and other subcontracted entities.

“Legal Aid is proud to be a close partner with United Way and we look forward to working with them to make this City’s new legal protection a reality for low-income families,” says Colleen Cotter, Executive Director of Legal Aid.

With this effort, Cleveland is the first city in the Midwest and the fourth in the United States – after New York City, San Francisco and Newark - to enact such protections for low-income tenants. At time of publication of this newsletter, Philadelphia became the 5th city, after Cleveland, to establish such a right. Cleveland is at the forefront of an important national movement.