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ACLU of Delaware calls for right to representation for eviction defense in the state

Delaware Public Media

The ACLU of Delaware is hoping state lawmakers pass legislation on the right to representation for eviction defense.

Some cities and states already have laws guaranteeing counsel to tenants facing eviction.

A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in Delaware’s 2nd Representative District shows 71% of residents are in favor of passing a similar bill.

80% of residents are people of color, while 66 percent of residents rent their home, and 53 percent of renters in the district have either been evicted or know someone that’s been evicted.

"Residents of Representative District 2 represented by Representative Stephanie Bolden face high rates of poverty and are among the highest eviction rates in all of Delaware," said Javonne Rich, ACLU of Delaware Policy and Advocacy Director. "Representative District 2 is also the home of people and families and groups of people like I just mentioned who stand to be at most risk of evictions."

Ann Aviles with the University of Delaware’s Race, Justice and Policy Research Initiative says Delaware has an eviction problem.

"Delaware's eviction crisis is worse than other states. Our eviction filing rate is 4 times higher than the national average," said Aviles. "Right to representation measures for renters in eviction proceedings have been enacted in three states and also 12 cities, and we're hoping Delaware will be next."

Proponents of right to representation say there are many benefits including more favorable outcomes for tenants such as decreased displacement, increased housing stability, and a decreased impact on employment.

Other benefits touted include more decreased negative impact on children, increased family and community stability, decreased impact on physical and mental health of people in eviction proceedings, and increased trust in the justice system and civic engagement.

The Delaware State Senate passed a representation for eviction defense bill earlier this year, but it was tabled in a House committee.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.