EDC Seeks Continued Support for the SF Tenant Right to Counsel Program
This letter was original published by the Eviction Defense Collaborative.
May 10, 2023
The Honorable London N. Breed
Mayor of San Francisco
Via Email: MayorLondonBreed@sfgov.org
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Peskin
Via Email: email@example.com
Dear Mayor Breed and Supervisors:
I write today on the urgent matter of sustained funding for the San Francisco Tenant Right to Counsel program (TRC), which provides legal representation to San Francisco tenants who are facing eviction. I write to you on behalf of the eight legal service organizations who comprise the TRC citywide system, who are unanimously aligned in vigorously urging you to sustain the current level of funding for this critical homelessness prevention program.
Eviction Defense Collaborative, Lead Partner for SF Tenant Right to Counsel:
For 27 years, EDC has been the only agency in San Francisco solely dedicated to eviction prevention, processing the vast majority of all eviction notices filed in the City. The majority of clients served by EDC are those at the highest risk for homelessness. In fiscal year 2021/2022 66% of the clients served were BIPOC; 45% were people with disabilities; and 87% were classified as indigent per the State of California poverty guidelines.
In 2018 San Francisco voters approved Proposition F, “No eviction without representation” which provides tenants with a right to legal representation when their landlord is seeking to evict them. As such, the City is mandated by legislation to provide these services. Since 2019, EDC has served as the Lead Partner with the City of San Francisco in implementing the Tenant Right to Counsel (TRC) program. As Lead Partner, EDC coordinates and oversees the work of the eight partnering legal service organizations comprising the citywide TRC system, who together provide legal representation to thousands of San Franciscans who are being evicted from their homes each year.
The Urgent Need for Continued TRC Services:
The expert legal representation provided by the TRC program is an essential component of the City’s homelessness prevention strategy. At present, evictions have returned to pre-pandemic levels with landlords aggressively evicting tenants, many of whom will become homeless if their current housing is lost. On average this fiscal year, 220 eviction lawsuits have been filed in San Francisco Superior Court each month, with the average trending closer to 245 in recent months. Thus far this fiscal year the TRC system has 2100 open cases, with 2470 projected through June 30th. The TRC system requires sustained funding to meet this increased demand for services and keep San Francisco tenants housed and off the streets, avoiding a catastrophic increase in homelessness citywide.
TRC’s Indispensable Value and Impact:
The City has spent years investing in these vital homelessness prevention services provided by attorneys and social workers with the experience and skills needed to effectively represent tenants. Cutting TRC funding would dismantle a citywide program that would take years to rebuild, and with potential dire consequences to tenants. Instead, I urge you to continue investing in TRC services which provide a tremendous return on investment (ROI) with proven results in preventing homelessness. In fact, TRC currently has one of the highest existing ROI for homelessness prevention services in the City. The cost of adding even just one additional bed at a city-funded homeless shelter is nearly 11.3 times the cost of providing eviction defense and homelessness prevention services to an entire household. Case in point: the average total cost for TRC full scope legal representation is $6300 per eviction lawsuit, while the cost for adding one new bed in a city funded shelter is $71,000. TRC’s success rate also proves the undeniable worth and critical value of its services with 88% of TRC clients receiving full scope representation remaining housed. The indisputable effectiveness of TRC services must be sustained to prevent increasing levels of evictions from taking place.
TRC’s eviction defense and homelessness prevention services are also unique in how they so successfully address multiple aspects of the City’s housing crisis at once. Services result in the following benefits to the City and its residents:
Protection for tenants from eviction, displacement and homelessness by keeping tenants housed and off the streets, stemming the tide of further homelessness and its devastating impact to these tenants, their families and the City as a whole. This saves the city millions in homelessness services and rehousing costs.
Preservation of existing affordable housing for lower- and middle-income residents, including the elderly and those with disabilities, which reduces the need for further production of new housing, and also saves the City billions in production costs.
Preservation of San Francisco’s diversity by keeping tenants, including families with children, in their homes, which stabilizes communities and preserves the racial, ethnic, linguistic, economic and social diversity of San Francisco, preventing it from becoming even more homogenous and further compromising its progressive values.
Mayor Breed and members of the Board of Supervisors, I know you face difficult decisions during this budget season, which is why I urge you to sustain funding for the San Francisco Tenant Right to Counsel program at the level of $17 million for the citywide system. Investing in TRC is fiscally responsible, prevents homelessness and protects the indispensable system of legal services the City has built over the past four years. Moreover, TRC services stabilize the lives of San Francisco families, communities, and our collective diversity.
Martina I. Cucullu Lim
Eviction Defense Collaborative
AIDS Legal Referral Panel - Bill Hirsh, Executive Director
Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach - Akiko Takeshita, Managing attorney
Bay Area Legal Aid - Genevieve Richardson, Executive Director
Homeless Advocacy Project, Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco - Yolanda Jackson, Executive Director
Legal Assistance to the Elderly - Laura Chiera, Executive Director
Open Door Legal - Nikki Love, Managing Housing Attorney
Tenderloin Housing Clinic - Steve Collier, Managing Attorney