Philadelphia Expands Right to Counsel Initiative, Offers Free Legal Aid for More Renters

City of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, PA — In a significant move to support low-income renters, the City of Philadelphia has expanded its Right to Counsel (RTC) initiative. The Division of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which manages RTC, announced on Friday the inclusion of an additional zip code – 19132 – to the four existing ones under this program.

The RTC initiative, effective since October 2023, offers free legal representation to financially vulnerable tenants facing eviction. It already serves renters in zip codes 19134, 19144, 19139, and 19121. With the addition of 19132, a total of five zip codes now have access to expanded free legal counsel. The service is available to Philadelphians with incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, regardless of immigration status.

The expansion is a testament to the program’s initial success. Zip codes were chosen based on the Reinvestment Fund’s analysis of eviction volume, likely uptake, eviction filing rate, and family poverty.

Eva Gladstein, First Deputy Managing Director, highlighted the adverse effects of evictions on women, children, and communities. She expressed gratitude to DHCD and partner organizations for growing this essential program that mitigates disruptive displacements and promotes fairness in Landlord-Tenant cases.

Mayor Kenney demonstrated his commitment to RTC by investing $28 million in the initiative through the Five-Year Plan in FY24. This investment allows the program to scale and sustain its efforts.

For over 40 years, DHCD has been addressing housing needs in Philadelphia. Melissa Long, Director of DHCD, said the organization is proud to manage the Eviction Diversion Program and RTC. She added that providing free legal services to tenants in dire circumstances aligns with DHCD’s mission. The organization continues to advocate for additional funding at local, state, and federal levels to help more tenants access affordable housing.

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Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) reaffirmed City Council’s commitment to the Eviction Diversion and RTC programs. He emphasized the importance of providing legal assistance to deserving Philadelphians to prevent eviction and maintain their homes or apartments.

Eligible renters can utilize their Right to Counsel during eviction proceedings, administrative proceedings that could lead to tenancy termination or eviction, and PHA housing subsidy termination proceedings. The RTC is available for judicial proceedings, such as in Municipal Court, and administrative proceedings, like those in front of the Fair Housing Commission.

By expanding the RTC initiative, Philadelphia aims to demonstrate its commitment to supporting vulnerable renters and promoting fair housing.

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