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Eviction in Cleveland

March 4, 2018. Eviction Discussion in Cleveland

This past week saw the "kick off" for a community wide event around Matthew Desmond's book Evicted! If you have been paying any attention to rental housing news for the past year, you know that "Evicted!" has become a national sensation for exposing the impact of eviction on low income households. Maybe Cleveland's a year late to the party, this month's "community read" reveals to the enduring qualities of the book and the underlying issues for the community..

Last Friday's City Club Forum was anchored by WCPN Amy Eddings and featured presentations by Judge Ronald JH O'Leary of the Cleveland Housing Court, (RHINO member) Kris Keniray from The Housing Center, Hazel Remesh of Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and Willie Brown, a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) tenant with first hand experience in Cleveland Housing Court.

While the forum moderator, WCPN's Amy Eddings, was informed and insightful, the print media coverage of the event was less than stellar. The Plain Dealer version of the telecast was muddled and missed key points. And Cleveland's Scene magazine turned the City Club event into another obit for Cleveland Tenants Organization (CTO), despite the fact that Legal Aid Society of Cleveland will be taking on some of the key CTO services.

But following the Forum, the Plain Dealer gets credit for printing an op/ed by Legal Aid's Hazel Remesch on the topic of eviction representation. "In 2017, a mere 1 percent of tenants facing eviction in Cleveland were represented by an attorney, usually from our team at Legal Aid. For the eviction cases we handle, we prevent 99 percent of evictions."

Key points from the forum

1. Most Cleveland evictions are for non-pay. Judge O'Leary said that the only solution is "pay your rent." He suggested that court mediation can help households make a "soft landing," eg. find another place to stay.

2. Judge O'Leary noted that most tenants in eviction court are unrepresented and that favors greater tenant representation. He suggested that tenant representation

would benefit landlords too. Maybe the court could analyze the difference that having representation makes on the outcome of the hearing?

3. WCPN's Amy Eddings pointed out that eviction hearings is only a subset of the involuntary displacements of households. Many tenants just go to prevent a court filing. Kris Keniray from The Housing Center noted the debilitating effects of "fear of eviction," include putting up with bad conditions. Willie Brown reported on his stress and the cost of just getting to court to offer a defense.

4. Hazel Remesch from Legal Aid cited the value of Housing Choice Vouchers in providing renter households with housing mobility, a third party inspection and an affordable household payment based on percentage of household income. Kris Keniray notes that less than 1/3 of eligible families actually get a Housing Choice voucher and that HCV households often face discrimination based on their subsidy.

Wait! There's more:

Listen to the whole show at