SAN ANTONIO – The right to counsel program aims to protect renters who have fallen behind on rent and are fighting eviction.
For those who can’t afford their rent, it’s impossible to pay for legal services that would help them battle eviction.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino said his team has been busy reaching out to the community, trying to spread the word about the program. He said they’ve been talking to renters, tenants and organizations.
The team has also been looking to other cities for ways to protect renters.
“We’ve been talking to other communities as well that have improved on the model — in New York City, like Philadelphia — to get a better understanding of how we can implement that here. We’ve worked with different attorneys to understand the opportunities that there may be, different organizations can help provide or assist with regards to this program,” Trevino said.
Trevino’s office reports that New York City saw significant changes from 2017 to 2018. The city reduced residential evictions by 11% in neighborhoods offering tenants the right to counsel.
“The benefits are that both sides have a better understanding of rent and how we can actually provide a meaningful connection between the renter and the landlord,” Trevino said.
Trevino said court records show there were about 16,000 eviction filings in Bexar County in 2018. Most of those judgments favored the property owner, not the tenant.
To implement the program, the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department will partner with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, a nonprofit law firm.
The $100,000 allocated for this project will be used to hire an attorney, a project coordinator and pay for other staff members who will work in the program.