Eviction Prevention Tool, During Coronavirus and Beyond
Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)
This project will prevent homelessness caused by illegal evictions by connecting tenants at risk of displacement to newly-available eviction prevention resources. The new LA County Eviction Defense program provides low-income tenants access to a free lawyer for eviction cases. SAJE and JustFix will create an online tool that links eligible tenants to these resources and conduct an outreach/education campaign informing tenants. In the coronavirus era, online resources are critical to making essential services available to the most vulnerable.
Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?
Eviction prevention has become an even higher priority as the covid-19 pandemic has caused millions of renters in LA County to wonder if they can pay their rent. Keeping our homes IS public health. Without a home, exposure to the coronavirus is dramatically worsened. Temporary emergency measures protect many tenants, but only for a limited time. Now more than ever, tenants need easy access to tools and resources to help exercise their rights and stay in their homes. In the coronavirus era, easy-to-use and multi-lingual online resources are essential to making critical services available to people who need it the most. In rapid response to the current crisis, we created NoRent.org, which has helped tenants throughout the County protect themselves from unlawful evictions.
Dramatic impacts to the County’s budget have shifted the focus of this current project and amplify its value. Currently, the LA County Eviction Defense Program will be replaced by a short-term Emergency Eviction Prevention Program. New tools for tenants to protect against displacement remain critically necessary. For instance, our tools may help tenants effectively document and respond to issues of harassment and slum housing conditions - two major drivers of displacement.
Please describe the mission of your organization.
SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy) works towards the creation of a society where economic benefits/opportunities are equitably distributed, where communities are stable, and where workers and tenants have the same rights, stature, and decision-making power as corporations/property owners.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- South LA
- County of Los Angeles
- City of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project?Pilot project or new program
Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.
If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.
SAJE will be conducting the work in LA County to inform tenants of their new right to counsel. In building up their outreach and education efforts, SAJE will work with JustFix to build off of the success of JustFix’s work on New York City’s right to counsel for tenants. Utilizing a co-design process, tenants who participate in SAJE programs, SAJE organizers, and JustFix staff will develop a tool that is accessible to tenants. SAJE will devote its expertise in eviction prevention, tenant rights, and years of experience conducting outreach and organizing with tenants from the most vulnerable communities in Los Angeles. JustFix will bring tremendous design, product management, technical engineering, and software development expertise and experience, having created similar tools in NYC.
What is the need you’re responding to?
Avoiding eviction helps prevent homelessness and ensures that tenants do not have to leave their homes just so landlords can reap higher profits. LA County’s new Eviction Defense Program rolls out tenant protections, including legal counsel, to five Los Angeles zip codes this summer. The new eviction prevention resources will increase tenants’ ability to remain in their current home and reduce homelessness. In the coronavirus era, keeping people in their homes is more than ever a matter of life and death. Residents need to be informed of the rights and services available to them by a trusted source. SAJE is a trusted source in South LA and helps convene the Right to Counsel Coalition, a broad network across LA County. With easy-to-access technology, SAJE and JustFix aim to create an online resource for tenants to access the information and referrals they need to exercise their rights in a moment when in-person support and screening are challenged by the need for physical distancing.
Why is this project important to the work of your organization?
SAJE helps lead the LA Right to Counsel coalition and supports the coalition organizing in support of the recent rent stabilization ordinance in the County. In response to the coronavirus, SAJE helped lead efforts to ensure tenants gain protections from displacement to prevent further public health challenges. SAJE’s work on OWN IT! (https://www.ownit.la/) similarly leveraged technology to help enhance code enforcement capabilities with LA County and reduce slum living conditions. Paired with tenant-friendly policies, technology can be a powerful tool to connect individuals at risk of eviction. SAJE will build on the success of OWN IT! and the experience of JustFix’s right to counsel website. JustFix built a first-of-its-kind screening tool for Right to Counsel in NYC, helping connect 4,000+ tenants with free legal representation in just the first year. The technology can be paired with a variety of community organizing campaigns SAJE is engaged in locally and countywide.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?
- Direct impact
- Indirect impact
Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.
This proposal aligns with a nationwide movement to ensure tenants have a right to counsel in eviction cases. While there is a right to counsel in criminal cases, there is no comparative legal right in civil cases. Other cities, including New York City, are enacting right to counsel protections for tenants. SAJE’s proven track record at addressing slum housing conditions and helping tenants to better advocate for themselves will allow LA neighborhoods to determine their own future as the city grows. Increased legal representation will help prevent displacement, reduce homelessness, and allow more tenants to remain in their homes and continue to influence the future of their communities.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
SAJE envisions that this project will complement its current actions on tenants rights and equitable development in LA and similar efforts by groups across LA County. Through the existing Tenant Action Clinics and outreach efforts, including partnerships with broad coalitions and LA County, SAJE will educate tenants on their right to legal counsel for eviction issues. Success in this project would be the launch of a user-friendly web-based tool to help tenants navigate the complexities of the phased roll-out process and an outreach campaign to ensure the target population is aware of and able to use eviction defense resources. Success will be measured by the completion and publication of the website and by the active use of the tool by tenants in LA County. Because this project complements SAJE’s current work, it is scalable and can be adjusted to grow with a larger budget. The right to counsel website can be woven into SAJE’s current efforts and communications with coalition members, but a larger amount of funding would enable SAJE to take additional actions that ensure the widespread knowledge and use of the website in the initial areas to receive access to this legal counsel.
Which of the live metrics will your submission impact?
- Housing affordability
Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?
- Access to the LA2050 community
- Host public events or gatherings
- Communications support
- Strategy assistance and implementation
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