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Gilbert Family Foundation creates $12 million Detroit eviction defense fund

Jennifer Gilbert (pictured), co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation, today announced the creation of the Detroit Eviction Defense Fund, which will invest $12 million over three years. // Courtesy of the Gilbert Family Foundation

The Gilbert Family Foundation today announced the creation of the Detroit Eviction Defense Fund, which will invest $12 million over three years in three Detroit-based organizations that will provide legal representation to low-income Detroit families facing eviction proceedings. expulsion.

The investment is expected to benefit nearly 6,000 families per year.

Through the Detroit Eviction Defense Fund, the Gilbert Family Foundation has also allocated up to $1 million to fund a long-term study of the effectiveness of the program as well as the eviction defense ecosystem in Detroit.

Today, 4% of tenants have access to representation, compared to 83% of landlords. Landlords often evict tenants for reasons entirely unrelated to non-payment of rent, such as a desire to increase rents despite an existing tenancy agreement or land contract.

Additionally, tenants often withhold rent legally due to structural and security issues with the home that need to be resolved.

The Detroit Eviction Defense Fund will deploy funds to the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), Michigan Legal Services and Lakeshore Legal Aid to level the playing field for vulnerable tenants facing these situations. This program and similar efforts will prevent future deterioration, speculation, population loss, and neighborhood instability.

“The Detroit Eviction Defense Fund will even the scales of justice for vulnerable tenants, who deserve the opportunity to stay in their homes and enjoy lasting housing stability,” says Jennifer Gilbert, entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation. with her husband, Dan. “We salute the efforts of Mayor Duggan and Council Speaker Mary Sheffield to successfully pass Detroit’s Right to Counsel Ordinance and encourage others to join us in this work.”

Residents can contact UCHC, Michigan Legal Services, and Lakeshore Legal Aid directly to participate in the program.

This investment builds on the City of Detroit’s Eviction Prevention and Assistance Program (DEAPD) from the City of Detroit, which used funding from the state’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program.

CERA is expected to stop taking new applications once program funds run out, potentially as early as June. The Detroit Eviction Defense Fund said it would ensure no loss of service to vulnerable Detroit residents, so they have a chance to stay in their homes.

The $12 million investment will comprehensively support full legal access for all families with one child at home who earn 50% of Regional Median Income (AMI) or less. This AMI level in Detroit for a family of two is $35,800, $40,300 for a family of three, and $44,750 for a family of four.

UCHC, Michigan Legal Services and Lakeshore Legal Aid will manage the administration of the program, hiring and supporting attorneys, legal supervisors and legal aides who will be integrated into the 36th District Court.

“The Detroit Eviction Defense Fund will allow us to continue the essential work of defending Detroiters and their families against landlords who too often try to take advantage of them,” said Ashley Lowe, CEO of Lakeshore Legal Aid. “Without such interventions, less than 5% of tenants are represented by a lawyer during eviction proceedings. We are grateful to the Gilbert Family Foundation for helping us level the playing field and restore justice in a essentially unjust system.

In the event of an emergency, the investment will also enable UCHC, Michigan Legal Services and Lakeshore Legal Aid to provide legal advice to seniors, families with housing vouchers, people with disabilities, etc

Today’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the City of Detroit passed a Right to Counsel Ordinance, which provides Detroit tenants facing eviction legal representation in all eviction proceedings. and administrative procedures related to housing that threaten the occupation of their homes.

The ordinance was introduced by Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield. Since services are subject to the availability of funds, the Gilbert Family Foundation’s investment is an important step towards actualizing these rights.

“Housing is a human right, and the Right to Counsel Ordinance and the Detroit Eviction Defense Fund are a step forward in realizing that right for thousands of Detroit families,” says Sheffield, who has worked closely with the Detroit Right to Counsel Coalition in passing the order. “Through the Gilbert Family Foundation, this program ensures our tenants have the opportunity to stay in the properties they and their families have made into homes.”

Colonial House
A house in Detroit. Image bank

The city, which will create an eviction advocacy office within the housing and revitalization department, is expected to establish its program by Oct. 1. In addition to city dollars, outside funding from programs like the Detroit Eviction Defense Fund is critical to ensuring the long-term success and viability of the ordinance.

The city ordinance will provide legal representation to renters at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, which is $36,620 for a family of two, $46,060 for a family of three, and $55,500. $ for a family of four.

“Over the past two years, the city has provided legal representation or advice to more than 14,000 tenants facing eviction,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Thanks to this generous gift from the Gilbert Family Foundation, 6,000 Detroit families with children a year can know they are not alone and will have legal support to help them stay in their homes. Resources are here. We just need people to enjoy it.

The City of Detroit’s DEAPD program has directly helped more than 3,000 tenants stay in their homes over the past two years. The 36th District Court sees an average of 30,000 eviction cases per year.

The Rocket Community Fund, the philanthropic partner of Detroit-based Rocket Cos., previously commissioned a study from Stout Risius Ross, LLC (Stout) to determine the potential economic impact of a Right to Counsel eviction in Detroit. Stout, which has conducted similar research and analysis for Cleveland, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and other cities in the United States, is a global investment bank and advisory firm that also provides advisory on socio-economic issues, including issues related to access to justice and the needs of low-income individuals and communities.

Stout found that 12% of evictions from Detroit can result in residents leaving the city (about 700 households and 2,100 residents each year). The associated economic impact of emigration as well as the social safety net costs caused by disruptive displacement and housing instability have exceeded the investment required to provide legal eviction rights.

The study found that the estimated economic benefit of an eviction right to an attorney for tenants facing eviction in Detroit is 352% greater than the estimated costs of representation, or $3.52 for every dollar spent. The $12 million Right to Counsel program is expected to generate an overall economic benefit of $42.2 million.

“This right-to-announce program in Detroit, just like in cities across the country, will reduce disruptive travel, decrease the burn, improve health outcomes, and increase confidence in the justice system,” says Neil Steinkamp, ​​l lead author of the report leading Stout’s transformative change. Counseling practice.

“In Cleveland, which is similarly located to Detroit, 93% of tenants facing eviction and represented by an attorney who sought to avoid an eviction judgment or involuntary move in 2021 were able to achieve this goal. We are confident that this program will be able to achieve similar results here in Detroit.

The estimated economic impact of an eviction right to counsel in Detroit can be viewed in full here.

The Gilbert Family Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation founded by Jennifer and Dan Gilbert to accelerate recovery from Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) and create economic opportunity and equity in the city of Detroit.

The Gilbert Family Foundation supports groundbreaking cutting-edge research in hopes of eradicating NF1, a genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on nerves anywhere in the body. Additionally, the Foundation supports economic stability and mobility for Detroit residents by investing in wealth-creation opportunities and removing systemic barriers.

For more information on the Gilbert Family Foundation, visit