LSC Applauds Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Call for Members of the Legal Community to Address Looming Housing and Evictions Crisis

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) applauds and supports Attorney General Merrick Garland’s call for members of the legal community to help “address the looming housing and evictions crisis.”

In a statement today, Garland noted that as federal and local eviction moratoria expire, eviction filings are expected “to spike to roughly double their pre-pandemic levels.”

He called on members of the legal community to step up and meet the challenge.

“The legal profession is well positioned to provide support for tenants, landlords, and courts during this crisis. Promoting access to justice to ensure that our justice system delivers outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth or status, is one of the highest ideals of the legal profession,” he wrote. “Because evictions are subject to state laws and local regulations, there is no national ‘one size fits all’ solution. But no matter where you live, lawyers and law students like you can apply your legal training and skills to help your community.” Garland called on lawyers and law students to help applicants access rental assistance, volunteer with legal aid providers and help local courts implement eviction diversion programs.

LSC grantees and other legal aid providers play a major role in addressing the eviction emergency.

“America’s legal aid providers are key to resolving the eviction crisis. None of the initiatives to address the crisis -- the eviction moratoria, eviction diversion programs, or distribution of rental assistance -- are self-executing,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. “The success of those initiatives requires assistance to ensure that the benefits Congress, state and local governments intend to distribute in fact reach the tenants and landlords who are the intended beneficiaries. Legal aid programs provide that assistance.”

Flagg added, “In addition to providing direct legal services themselves, America’s legal aid providers will play a vital three-part role in helping pro bono volunteers provide effective assistance to households facing the risk of eviction.  Legal aid programs can help:
-- provide training for volunteers,
-- identify individuals and families needing help, and
-- refer such individuals and families to pro bono volunteers.”

Recognizing the critical role, America’s legal aid providers play in helping households at risk for evictions, U.S. Treasury Department guidance makes clear that some of the $46.5 billion Congress has appropriated in emergency rental assistance -- only about 10 percent of which has been distributed so far -- can be used to support legal assistance to tenants and landlords. Specifically, Treasury Department FAQ 23 allows up to 10 percent of the emergency funds received by a grantee to be used for housing stability services including legal services related to eviction proceedings and housing stability.

The eviction crisis could be far-reaching.

Garland cited a recent Census Bureau survey showing that more than six million American households are behind on rent, with half believing they may be evicted in the next two months.

A determined response from the legal community is required. LSC and its grantees have already taken on the mantle and urge others to join in the effort.  

“The LSC Board is committed to working with our 132 grantees nationwide to address this growing crisis,” said LSC Board Chair John G. Levi. “We applaud their tireless and innovative efforts to assist low-income Americans swept up in this emergency and call on the private bar to assist in those efforts. With our recently formed Housing Task Force, our congressionally mandated national study of eviction, and other initiatives, LSC will continue to help focus national attention on this pressing challenge.”

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974. For 50 years, LSC has provided financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.