Winning Tenant Right to Counsel Through ARPA Funds

2022-08-11T16:55:29+00:00

Project Overview

Detroit Action has been calling for a robust affordable housing plan in Detroit that includes Right To Counsel for the past three years. The Right to Counsel ordinance would guarantee free legal representation for low-income residents facing evictions and other housing-related legal problems. After years of organizing, In May the Detroit City Council approved the Right to Council ordinance that would use ARPA funds to pay for the measure for the next three years.

Community-Centered Process

Through building a community-led coalition, housing justice advocates and organizers across Detroit came together and aligned to fight for right to counsel because we saw that as eviction moratorium ended renters were not going to be supported in being able to maintain their housing through the court system nor be given affordable housing options. The coalition agreed on endorsing specific housing justice candidates for city council. Once our champions were in office various groups lobbied while Detroit Action and other groups engaged in a three-month long mobilization campaign, driving community members to call their local representatives, submit public comments, and attend public hearings on the use of funds.

Organizing Wins

Our approach to organizing was to keep the most impacted folks at the table, directing us toward what we needed to demand. And through that we were able to craft our messaging, strategy and narrative around their lived experience. We galvanized the community to act because this was happening to too many Detroiters. The campaign is not over. We know that what was passed now was an attempt to ease the pressure off of passing true housing justice centered policies. We won a short term goal, but will keep organizing until this program is fully funded and adequate enough to truly impact on the housing disparities in Detroit.

We worked with the following organizations and groups under the Right to Counsel Coalition: United Community Housing Coalition; Detroit Eviction Defense, Michigan Legal Services, Lakeshore Legal Aid, Dykema, State Bar of Michigan, Ford Foundation.

Equity Goals

Detroit Action is a union of Black and Brown, low and no-income, homeless and housing insecure Detroiter fighting for housing and economic justice. Our organization is a grassroots and member-led, multigenerational, community-based organization fighting for real political power.

The goal of the campaign was to highlight the inequities of housing expansion in Detroit. Over the past 5 years we’ve seen renters across the city, especially in low-income Black and Brown communities, live in increasingly uninhabitable homes and are still forced to pay higher rent or face homelessness. The campaign’s goal was to highlight this structural problem, call out our elected officials to fund people first during the 2022–2023 budget cycle, especially since over 18,000 eviction cases were filed in 2020 alone.