Atlanta

Atlanta City Council approves $500,000 donation for eviction legal counsel program

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — The threat of eviction is hanging over the heads of thousands of men, women and children, and help is on the way through a program that will provide many of them with the legal assistance to navigate through the process.

Atlanta neighbors are demanding the city council take action to fix the homelessness problem and the high cost of living, which is a problem that fuels the eviction crisis.

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“We have more than half of our city that are renters, with the majority of our housing stock being bought up and taken off the market by LLCs and hedge fund corporations,” said District 5 Atlanta City Councilwoman Liliana Bakhtiari.

In Fulton County, 60,000 evictions have been filed since the start of the pandemic. With inflation, high gas prices and fixed and low incomes, many people can’t afford their rent, much less the cost of getting any legal assistance in eviction cases. To help with a solution, the Atlanta City Council approved legislation to donate $500,000 to provide free legal eviction counsel to Atlantans who qualify.

“This will allow people who don’t understand how to navigate that process or have the money to hire a lawyer to now have access to one,” said Bakhtiari, who sponsored the legislation. “One of the things that ended up inspiring me was the fact that, one, Fulton County is around 4th in the nation for highest eviction rates,” she said.

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The Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation will run the pilot program. AVLF’s Executive Director Michael Lucas issued this statement:

We are committed to working with the City to develop the best, most impactful way to increase access to legal help for our neighbors facing eviction.
Over the next several months, we will learn from other jurisdictions, test different models for providing legal representation, ensure we have systems in place to measure whether we are having an impact, and set the stage to further expand access to counsel.
Our eviction crisis harms individuals, families, schools, neighborhoods, and our community as a whole. We believe this pilot represents an important first step towards reducing that harm and creating a more safe and stable Atlanta.

“They’ve already been in the process of building out this department,” said Bakhtiari. “They’ll partner with organizations like Housing Justice League to actually hit the ground knocking on doors, because we know a lot of them don’t have access to social media,” Bakhtiari said, referring to seniors and working parents who can’t access the Internet.

She’s now working to get corporate sponsors to match that $500,000 and to make this funding part of the annual budget.

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If you’re facing eviction, you can contact your city council member or the AVLF for information on possible legal assistance or resources.

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