Jul 11, 2022 - News

Pilot program aims to curb evictions in Atlanta

Illustration of an eviction notice getting crumpled up.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new pilot program between the city and a local nonprofit will provide legal resources to residents facing eviction.

Driving the news: A $500,000 donation approved last week by the Atlanta City Council to the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF) will help residents navigate a fast-moving process they often don't understand or have the resources to respond to.

By the numbers: 36,510 evictions were filed in census tracts located within Atlanta between April 2020 and July 2 of this year, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission's Eviction Tracker.

What they're saying: Liliana Bakhtiari, the City Council member who sponsored the legislation, tells Axios that "displacement is a life or death situation."

  • "It can lead to homelessness," she says. "If these are seniors, it can affect their quality of life and…it takes years off their lives at a certain age when they don't have that sense of security."

Bakhtiari says while campaigning last year, she heard stories about longtime city residents who "were getting preyed on by predatory lenders…and predatory buyers," and people who were evicted from their homes after losing their jobs during the pandemic.

  • "Some of the stories were absolutely devastating," she says.

After taking office, Bakhtiari began working to help stem the tide of evictions.

  • Since state law prohibits governments from getting involved in evictions on behalf of either landlords or tenants, Bakhtiari says the city will need a strong ground game of knocking on doors, educating residents and connecting with activists who can "let us know when their neighbors are under threat."
  • Bakhtiari says she learned a similar program in New York City resulted in about 80% of participants avoiding evictions. Her goal is to see the city donate to AVLF annually.

What's next: AVLF Executive Director Michael Lucas said the organization will research what other cities and nonprofits have done and test various models to see what works best.

  • "Our eviction crisis harms individuals, families, schools, neighborhoods and our community as a whole," Lucas said. "We believe this pilot represents an important first step towards reducing that harm and creating a more safe and stable Atlanta."
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