Philadelphia Expands Right To Counsel

Also, New York migrants are protesting a move to barracks-style accommodation.

Philadelphia expands right-to-counsel initiative

Philadelphia announced it will expand its Right To Counsel initiative, which provides attorneys for low-income residents facing evictions the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The program was Piloted a year ago in two ZIP codes in North and West Philadelphia where residents were at high risk of eviction. The program is now being expanded to include the 19134 and 19144 ZIP Codes, which cover the boroughs of Port Richmond, Kensington, Germantown and East Germantown, according to the Inquirer.

The program is available to renters making $29,160 per year for single adults and $39,330 for two-person households. Last year, 38% of renters were in the two sample zip codes, versus 21% city-wide.

According to National Coalition for a Civil Right to Coalition, 15 cities and three states have legal rights to legal counsel for people in eviction proceedings. In addition to this program, Philadelphia also has a successful eviction diversion program that requires landlords to seek arbitration before filing for an eviction.

Migrants in NYC protest from hotel

Migrants who the city had housed at the Watson Hotel in Manhattan protested a planned move to newly built congregation accommodation at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook. The shelter is one of many emergency facilities the city has put online over the past year to deal with the influx of migrants since last year.

The standoff began Sunday when some migrants who began moving to the shelter returned to the hotel, saying they were unhappy with conditions at the Red Hook building Gothamist. The population at the Watson Hotel is made up of single adult males and the city said they were moving them into the accommodation to make room for migrant families. Plans to move migrants to assembly sites drew criticism from the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless last fall, saying the city’s proposed sites were far from amenities and potentially overcrowded. While the city does not designate the Red Hook location as an “emergency center” or a homeless shelter, the city’s large homeless shelters are notoriously unsafe and unsanitary.

Some migrants had also already found work near the hotel and feared the Red Hook location would make it difficult to get to work. Migrants denied re-entry into the hotel began sleeping outside, with tarps and supplies provided by aid groups who had flocked to the hotel. As of Tuesday night, a group of migrants had agreed to tour the Red Hook compound but found the conditions unsatisfactory, Gothamist reports. The city has had about 42,000 migrants since last spring, the mayor’s office says, and is struggling to accommodate them.

Private equity firm Blackstone ramps up evictions

Big real estate firm and private equity giant Blackstone has ramped up evictions in recent months as its self-imposed leniency program for evictions ends, officials said financial times. Blackstone advisors have called California politicians to “warn” them of a spike in evictions in areas where renters are defaulting, according to the outlet.

The Financial Times learned that Blackstone’s head of real estate, Nadeem Meghji, told employees the company will “see a significant increase in commercial occupancy as we overcome the voluntary eviction restrictions of the last few years”.

During the company’s self-imposed eviction forbearance program, it has not evicted a tenant for non-payment for more than two years, even after local and state eviction moratoriums expired, according to the Financial Times. If that was more generous than small landlords, it’s because the giant private equity firm could afford it: Blackstone brought in $557.9 million in net income last year and $1.4 billion the year before. The company has nearly $1 trillion in assets under management. And it has spent billions of dollars acquiring new property during the pandemic.

Because the company’s portfolio is so large, according to the Financial Times, “Blackstone’s real estate business has outperformed its publicly traded peers,” even in the absence of evictions.

Other stories we follow:

  • in one In its report, the Urban Institute examined the historical impact of the racist redlining carried out by the Federal Housing Administration and whether it directly relates to housing instability today. They found that the relationship between neighborhoods highlighted in red and characteristics of housing instability, such as eviction risk, is inconsistent even if neighborhoods remain racially segregated and disinvested. However, the neighborhoods tended to have low-income tenants, fewer economic opportunities, and contained more environmental hazards.

  • according to a According to the Moody’s Analytics report, the average American renter is rent-burdened, which means they pay more than 30% of their wages in rent.

  • Gotham Gazette and NY Focus noted that between 2016 and 2020, NYCHA failed to comply with a law mandating the hiring of low-income local residents. Dubbed Section 3, the law required the public housing authority to seek to hire 30% of its construction and contract labor from low-income NYCHA residents, but as of 2020 was hiring only 22% of its labor from that cohort. NYCHA has long had a high unemployment rate, which stands at 22%, according to a report by the Community Service Society.

Roshan Abraham is Next City’s housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities grantee. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

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