May 24, 2022 - News

Funding still needed for Right to Counsel effort

Council President Mary Sheffield smiles while speaking at a lecturn.
Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield. Photo courtesy of Rocket Central

Despite a hefty donation and pandemic funding, future money is still needed to secure legal representation for Detroit residents facing eviction.

Driving the news: The Gilbert Family Foundation is giving $13 million over the next three years to provide legal representation, which statistically makes tenants less likely to be evicted.

  • This adds to the $6 million in federal pandemic funding that City Council approved with its "Right to Counsel" ordinance for renters fighting evictions.

Yes, but: The ordinance doesn't sustain itself financially, as the city needs $16.7 million annually for eviction protection, per advocates.

What's next: City Council President Mary Sheffield, who sponsored the ordinance, said she is looking at philanthropic sources and other funding options.

  • One is revisiting a contentious debate that came up in the approval process — whether Detroit can pay for "Right to Counsel" out of its own coffers.
  • Acting top lawyer Chuck Raimi called the initiative dangerous and unlawful in March, but Sheffield says the new top lawyer, Conrad Mallet, seems more "open and supportive" and "has some ideas" like pushing for state law changes that allow for more funding flexibility.
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