Talk Justice, an LSC Podcast, Episode 4: “Eviction and the Pandemic”

October 13, 2020

Leading eviction expert Emily Benfer joined Legal Services Corporation (LSC) President Ronald S. Flagg on the latest episode of “Talk Justice, an LSC Podcast”. They discussed the devastating impact of eviction on individuals and families.

Professor Benfer, a visiting professor at Wake Forest Law School, is the chair of the ABA’s COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction and co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. She is also the principal investigator in a study of nationwide COVID-19 eviction moratoriums and housing policies.

The United States is facing the severest housing crisis in its history due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even with eviction moratoriums in place, an estimated thirty to forty million adults and children are at risk of eviction. On this episode, “Eviction and the Pandemic,” Benfer explains the societal costs of this surge in evictions and the pivotal role legal aid lawyers play in easing those effects.

While housing is “a pillar of resiliency,” Benfer notes that eviction is “a jagged, steep downward slide with no ladder back up.” She explains: “It jeopardizes a family's future housing opportunities and security. It limits access to opportunity, especially as people are attempting to put their life back together. It is both a barrier to employment and a cause of unemployment.”

Evictions function as a “Scarlet E” in people’s lives, making it impossible for families to find safe and affordable housing and often resulting in negative health outcomes. In short, Benfer maintains, an eviction “permanently alters a person’s life for the worse.”

Legal aid makes a huge difference in preventing unlawful evictions. Benfer points out that the eviction system is complicated. It is challenging for tenants to know their rights and to raise affirmative defenses. The value of legal aid attorneys to help people facing eviction “is immeasurable, and so critical at this time,” Benfer says.

Talk Justice episodes are available at on LSC's website and on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple and other popular podcast platforms. The podcast is sponsored by LSC’s Leaders Council.

Future episodes of Talk Justice will explore the challenges of delivering legal services in rural areas, legal aid’s importance to American business and how responses to the pandemic may permanently transform the courts and the practice of law.