Courts in the District have been awarded just over $600,000 to expand programs that help keep tenants in their homes.
The money is part of a $10 million gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation to improve housing stability across the country. Courts in 8 other states have received grants, including New York and Tennessee.
Each court will use the money to hire dedicated staff to provide early intervention and guidance in the legal process for tenants and landlords with the goal of avoiding costly trials, finding mutually acceptable solutions for both sides and resolving eviction problems.
“With eviction moratoriums ending, there’s an urgency to find more ways to keep people in their home,” said Bill Daley, vice chairman of public affairs at Wells Fargo. “With this kind of collaboration, we believe communities like Washington D.C., will lead the way in transforming the eviction process and achieve better outcomes for people’s lives and livelihoods.”
At the announcement of the grant Wednesday at the Historic D.C. Courthouse, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said “Eviction diversion isn’t just a tool to combat poverty, but also to advance racial justice.”
Nationally, evictions disproportionately affect communities of color. According to the Aspen Institute, about 80% of people facing evictions come from those communities, particularly Black and Latino tenants. One study found that Black renters are twice as likely as white renters to be evicted.
A pandemic-related federal freeze against evictions ended in August of last year; an attempt to extend it was struck down by the Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, the D.C. Council passed a ban against evictions of tenants who owed less than $600 in unpaid rent.
The grant program is being overseen by the National Center for State Courts Eviction Diversion Initiative, which will provide technical support to local courts.