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New grant aims to keep Atlantans threatened by eviction housed

An Atlanta home from which people were removed. (Credit: Kelly Jordan)

By Sean Keenan

A $400,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation could help a legal services organization protect Atlantans from eviction amid the pandemic. 

Nationwide, up to 40 million renters could face evictions before the year’s end because of the economic side effects of the public health crisis, and people of color account for 80 percent of those who could be threatened with eviction as federal rental protections expire, according to research by the Aspen Institute and the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation’s COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project

To curb what Atlanta housing experts anticipate will be a “tsunami” of evictions, the Wells Fargo Foundation provided financial support to Atlanta Legal Aid, according to a press release.

The $400,000 gift will help Atlanta Legal Aid provide “free or low-cost legal assistance and representation for people in Atlanta disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and at-risk of eviction,” the release states. 

“Lack of legal representation for low-income people is a glaring equity gap,” said Rulon Washington, community outreach manager with the Wells Fargo Foundation, per the release. “We believe supporting efforts to provide low-income renters at risk with legal assistance is an important step in helping the most vulnerable people stay housed.”

Researchers at Harvard University estimate some 90 percent of landlords have legal representation, whereas only 10 percent of tenants have the same privilege. 

According to the Wells Fargo press release, “two-thirds of tenants with legal representation are more likely to avoid an eviction judgement and remain in their home.”

Atlanta Legal Aid director of grants and innovation Kristin Verrill told SaportaReport she expects the grant to prevent 2,400 evictions and protect at least 6,000 individuals from housing instability.

“The legal assistance needed to prevent an eviction could take an hour or it could take 50 hours, depending on the complexity of the case,” she said. “A typical case probably takes five to ten hours of attorney time.”

(Header image, via Kelly Jordan: A household’s belongings have been put out on the curb.)


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