Connecticut’s major cities have some of the highest eviction rates in the nation, and one lawmaker says it’s time to take action on the issue.
A 2016 study by The Eviction Lab at Princeton University lists the top 100 evicting cities in the United States. Four out of the five cities listed in the Northeast are in Connecticut -- Waterbury, Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said affordable housing is a nationwide problem, and she’s concerned about the number of evictions. The Princeton study found that landlords filed an average of four evictions per minute, totaling nearly 2.3 million nationally.
DeLauro said the combination of a limited housing supply, rising rents and decreased wages have created a perfect storm. In response, DeLauro recently reintroduced the Eviction Prevention Act to help low-income people get access to legal counsel if they are being evicted.
“It is troubling and quite frankly embarrassing to see such high eviction rates in Connecticut’s major cities,” DeLauro said during a news conference at City Hall in New Haven. “It should not be on that list. I believe what it demonstrates is how this crisis is really unfolding.”
If the measure passes, it would allow the U.S. attorney general to authorize $125 million in grants to state and local governments to provide legal assistance for families in eviction cases if their income is lower than 125% of the federal poverty level.
Attorney Yonatan E. Zamir from the New Haven Legal Assistance Association said in an area like New Haven that would be a family of four with an income below $30,000.
DeLauro said the bill is “about fairness and equality under the law.” She said just 10% of tenants have legal representation in eviction lawsuits, compared to an estimated 90% of landlords.
DeLauro said under the Eviction Prevention Act, cities and states that have established a right to counsel would receive preference for additional funding. The bill would also allow the AG to collect evidence of eviction data, and it mandates a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on the cost savings from providing representation by an attorney to renters in housing cases.
But with nine co-sponsors, DeLauro said the bill still has a ways to go. DeLauro said she’ll be pushing for the passage of the legislation through the House of Representatives in the coming months.