Detroit has prevented 6,000 to 7,000 evictions, Duggan says
Detroit — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Friday his administration has had success in preventing evictions and providing lawyers to residents facing eviction.
As of Sept. 7, the moratorium on rental eviction has been lifted by 36th District Court and cases are getting backed up, Duggan said. The city has $60 million in financial assistance and has prevented between 6,000 and 7,000 evictions, he added.
"Our biggest problem is that lawyers are paid for you ... but if you don't answer the eviction notice, we can't represent you," Duggan said. "Anyone with back rent should be applying. The help is there and all you have to do is make a phone call."
If landlords haven't already started the eviction process because of back rent, Duggan said help is available for low-income residents who have suffered financial hardship over the course of the pandemic. Eligibility is based on federal guidelines and includes a single person who makes less than $44,800 a year or a family of four that makes less than $64,000 a year.
The program is able to help with up to 18 months of back rent, help residents get three months ahead with rent payments and provide direct access to employment opportunities.
Landlords who want to avoid evicting tenants can also apply for rental assistance. In most cases, the program will make the payment directly to the landlord.
Ashley Lowe, CEO of Lakeshore Legal Aid, said tenants have the opportunity to speak privately with a free lawyer to advocate on their behalf.
"If you are served with a notice to appear, you must. We can't do anything unless you appear in that court," Lowe said. "If you live in section eight housing or subsidized, there are special rules that apply and special protection that our legal aid attorneys that can help advise you about that and enforce those rights. Also for repairs because everyone has a right to live in a safe space."
If you need assistance, go to Detroitevictionhelp.com or call (866) 313-2520.
The Michigan State Housing and Development Authority is administering $622 million through a federal COVID rental assistance program, but nearly $500 million in rental assistance grants was unspent as of late July.
Duggan presented the program in September as a three-point plan. The first step is to offer legal representation to anyone who needs it, he said. The second is to provide assistance for those who suffered financial hardship because of the pandemic, and the third is to work with those who need job placement help "so that you can pay rent going forward," he added.
The city had $130 million available, with $60 million left. Duggan said the money is available immediately. It doesn't necessarily need to go just to those being evicted, either, he said. Being behind on rent means a person can access the assistance.