Newark Plans To Offer Free Lawyers For Low-Income Renters Facing Eviction

Written by Ann Brown

 

In Newark, New Jersey, where 78 percent of the 300,000 residents are renters, the rents keep going up and many renters find themselves facing eviction.

Median rents in the city have gone up 20 percent since 2000, according to a recent report by the Rutger’s Center for Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity.

Because of high rents, 60 percent of renters pay more than a third of their income toward their rent and are considered rent burdened, NJ.com reported.

To help residents who find themselves in danger of an eviction, Newark just announced plans to introduce legislation that will guarantee a free lawyer for every low-income resident facing eviction.

Nine out of 10 tenants in Newark in the eviction process lack an attorney, according to Jay Lee, director of rent control for Newark.

Newark in 2016 saw 22 evictions filed for every 100 renter homes. That’s about 17,000 convictions, according to the first nationwide database of evictions compiled by The Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Nationally, that number is significantly lower: about 6 evictions for every 100 renter homes. There are also informal evictions that are not ordered by the court and go uncounted, NJ.com reported.

“There’s a lot more work that we have to do to mitigate the kind of problems you get when you become successful in the downtown area in terms of development and opportunity for your city,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said during the announcement. “We’re going to start off immediately dealing with folks that are disabled, our seniors and our undocumented immediately for the first year.”

Baraka made the announcement alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. In August 2017, York City became the first city in the country to pass similar legislation. Newark will now be the second city to pass such a law. San Francisco may also follow suit.

If the legislation is passed, Newark will provide legal representation for “tenants facing eviction whose income is 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less,” U.S. News & World Report reported. Baraka said the details to fund this initiative is still being worked out. The program will cost Newark somewhere between $750,000 and $1 million, he said.

“This is potentially a historic moment,” said Maria Lopez, an organizer with the Ironbound Community Corporation that is helping draft the legislation, according to NJ.com. “We need to ensure that as Newark moves forward, everybody goes with it.”

About 10,000 people who are seniors, disabled or undocumented immigrants will be eligible in the first year of the program, according to Baraka.

The ordinance will be introduced to the City Council on May 5 and hopefully implemented Sept. 1.

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About Ann Brown
Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.