May 23, 2022 - News

Gilberts to announce eviction legal aid donation

Jennifer Gilbert speaks at an event.
Jennifer Gilbert. Photo: City of Detroit via Flickr

The Gilbert Family Foundation is putting money toward legal aid for renters facing eviction.

Driving the news: Billionaire Dan Gilbert and his wife Jennifer's philanthropic organization is announcing the Detroit Eviction Defense Fund at a 10am press conference today.

  • The amount the Gilberts and partners will donate was not disclosed ahead of the event.

Why it matters: Reducing evictions protects individuals and could also help stem the flow of displacement out of the city that creates vacancy, hurts underserved populations and hampers neighborhood growth.

Flashback: This cash infusion builds on the money City Council approved earlier this month in a new "Right to Counsel" ordinance for low-income renters that's been in the works for years.

  • Federal pandemic relief funding is providing $6 million under the ordinance.

Yes, but: $16.7 million per year total is needed according to eviction defense providers cited in a Stout Risius Ross LLC study commissioned by the Gilbert-related Rocket Community Fund.

By the numbers: Legal aid would aim to correct an imbalance laid out in Stout's study, also being released today.

  • Landlords had representation in 83% of the 30,000 36th District Court filings from 2017 that Stout analyzed. Tenants had representation in just 4%.
  • Tenants who have lawyers are 18 times less likely to be displaced or have their life significantly disrupted, Stout found.

Between the lines: For every dollar Detroit spends providing low-income tenants with legal representation to fight eviction proceedings in court, the city saves $3.52 in social safety net spending, Stout found.

Expected attendees for today's announcement include City Council President Mary Sheffield, Jennifer Gilbert, Detroit Corporation counsel Conrad Mallet and a Lakeshore Legal Aid executive, according to an advisory.

Context: The move is part of the Gilberts' $500 million commitment for Detroit philanthropic pursuits.

  • They've also started funds for home repair and paying off property tax debt.
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