Nov 3, 2022 - News

Detroit misses deadline to set up eviction office

Illustration of a welcome mat that reads "help"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Detroiters facing eviction aren't getting the help they need because the city has failed to set up its new eviction prevention office, housing advocates say.

Catch up fast: The city was legally required to set up an Office of Eviction Defense by Oct. 1 under the Right to Counsel ordinance approved in May.

Why it matters: With eviction cases rising and winter on the way, Detroiters struggling to pay rent desperately need legal help and other services the office would provide.

  • So far this year, 19,165 landlord-tenant cases have been filed in Detroit, including 1,904 in October.

What they're saying: "Each day that the city does not follow the law or fund the law, more people are at risk of eviction and homelessness, more suffering," Ruth Johnson of Community Development Advocates of Detroit said at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

The other side: "I will not offer excuses. I am singularly responsible for missing the Oct. 1, 2022 start date," Conrad Mallet, the city's top lawyer, wrote in an Oct. 12 memo to City Council members.

  • The city is in the process of hiring staff and a vendor to set up the office and follow the law, Mallett wrote.

The big picture: Housing advocates are sounding the alarm about overcrowded shelters and rent costs rising faster than income levels.

  • Tenesa Sanders, a Detroit Action housing organizer, says studio apartments now typically cost about $1,000 a month — difficult, if not impossible, to pay with the average local income. More people are becoming homeless and living in their cars.
  • "People may start freezing to death," Sanders tells Axios.
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