Detroit City Council to vote Tuesday on providing legal council for evictions

Across Michigan, there are 200,000 eviction cases and 40,000 evictions each year, according to the University of Michigan, with Wayne, Macomb, and Monroe Countis having the three highest in the state. On Tuesday, the Detroit City Council will vote on an ordinance that could help thousands of Detroiters who are just a missed payment away from eviction.

On Monday, the Detroit Right to Counsel Coalition made its last push to help low-income residents of the Michigan's largest city. They argue that residents in the city don't have the right to proper legal counsel.

Steven Remer is the tenant assocation coordinator at New Center and said many people who are facing eviction don't stand a chance.

"I’ve seen the zoom hearings in the 36th district court. People go in there with no representation, they get talked over by the judges, and they get evicted from their homes," Remer said.

The Detroit City Council is voting on a proposal that would give those low-income residents better legal representation. Detroit Right to Council Coalition attorney Tonya Myers Phillips said a yes vote would serve the residents who need the support the most.

"So we urge the city of Detroit, the Detroit City Council to pass and vote yes on the right to counsel ordinance which will provide full legal representation and community outreach to our most vulnerable Detroit residents," Phillips said.

They have an ally in Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield. She said residents often can’t fight for themselves or even afford an attorney.

"They’re disproportionately impact households headed by African American women, seniors and persons with disabilities," Sheffield said. "Out of 30,000 eviction cases in the city of Detroit, only 4 percent had an attorney."

In preparation for the Detroit City Council Public Hearing vote on the ordinance on Tuesday, ACLU of Michigan attorney Bonsitu Kitaba explained why this representation is crucial.

"To ensue that every single person facing eviction who qualifies gets a qualified, experienced attorney on their side to explain their right to them, to advocate for them in front of judge, and ensure there’s a fair process for both landlord and tenant," Kitaba said.

Advocates for the ordinance say appointed attorneys are not the best option for these cases.