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City council passes bills to protect renters and end homelessness

Posted at 10:33 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 13:21:34-05

There is progress in a push to help the homeless and families facing eviction.

The Baltimore City Council pushed through two bills expected to bring more resources and new protections.

From August to October 451 people were evicted in Baltimore.

The Governor and CDC put defenses in place for tenants during the pandemic—problem is most people don’t know how to use them to get help and advocate for themselves

Monday night Baltimore City Council passed through a bill to create an Office to end homelessness.

With it a local voucher program to transition people from permanent supportive housing to affordable housing.

Carolyn Johnson, a Managing Attorney with the Homeless Persons Representation Project said this model is already working well in other big cities.

“It frees up the system so that the most vulnerable people can be served in public supportive housing,” said Johnson. “It allows those folks in permanent supportive housing to maintain their housing security by having that permanent housing voucher so they don’t have to be required market rent snd face high rents they can’t afford.”

The Right to counsel bill would give tenants free counsel in eviction matters.

Right now 96% of landlords have legal representation as opposed to 1% of tenants.

Part of the bill requires landlords to let tenants know about their new option for free counsel when a lease is signed and eviction complaint is sent.

“If they had representation about 84% would not be evicted,” said Charisse Lue, an Attorney with the Public Justice Center. “That’s a lot that’s being evicted and shouldn’t be. Lots of things from not owing the money, but lots of landlords don’t give receipts. That way when they want the tenant out or they want more money they can file a complaint and there’s no hand written receipt or ledger."

Councilman Ryan Dorsey sponsored the homelessness bill. Mayor-elect Brandon Scott sponsored the right to counsel bill. Both bills passed unanimously.

He said the office to end homelessness will create more checks and balances than the system in place now.

“Create a director position who is no longer simply appointed by the Mayor but instead is nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the city council like every other agency that we take seriously.”

He’s also calling out the Mayor’s office to remove these signs posted at an encampment under 83 telling the people who slew there to vacate this week.

A spokesperson for The Mayor’s Office told us the sign will be removed and that no one will be arrested.

“The sign itself has the chilling effect of inciting anxiety and fear that it will happen on Wednesday,” Dorsey said. “Just by having that there it increases the likelihood that people will preemptively leave.”

These bills will now head to the Mayors Office where he can either pass them into law or veto them.

It will be up to Mayor Jack Young not incoming Mayor elect Brandon Scott.