A Collaborative Framework for Eviction Prevention in DC
The DC Eviction Prevention Co-Leaders Group believes that cross-sector collaboration among legal services providers, housing counselors, District government agencies, the DC Superior Court, philanthropic organizations, tenant organizers, housing providers, tenants, advocates, and community-based organizations is crucial to preventing eviction, displacement, and homelessness. The overall goal of the Co-Leaders Group is to establish a cross-sector collaborative approach to prevent eviction and displacement of tenants in DC with low incomes and stabilize their housing for the future.
DC’s eviction moratorium expired in September 2021, after the DC Council implemented legislation phasing out tenant protections instituted during the pandemic, and eviction filings have steadily increased from the beginning of 2022. With fewer eviction protections and the end of STAY DC assistance—combined with high inflation, increased rent prices, stagnant wages, and the ongoing pandemic—eviction filings, judgments, writs, and scheduled evictions will likely continue to increase.
Yet the evidence of the harmful effects of evictions on tenants is clear. Housing instability caused and made worse by evictions increases the risk of homelessness and hurts the health, education, and well-being of families with children. Increased homelessness from evictions leads to higher costs to the District for emergency shelter; medical services, particularly the use of emergency departments; and other social services. Evictions are also highly inequitable: decades of policies that restricted the jobs to which Black people had access, stripped families of their wealth, and prevented them from obtaining home loans have led to stark inequities in income and housing along racial lines. Black people in DC are more likely to be renters, face an eviction filing, and ultimately be physically evicted from their homes.
Although tenants have more rights in DC than tenants in most other jurisdictions in the United States, there remains an inherent power imbalance in the landlord-tenant relationship. This is particularly true in DC’s high-cost rental market, where safe, affordable housing is scarce for tenants with low incomes or those who are legally undocumented and fear retaliation. Landlords typically have legal representation in court and can better navigate the complex eviction process, which can be difficult for tenants to understand. Furthermore, eviction and the threat of eviction lead to immense trauma for tenants and their families, likely negatively affecting their mental and physical health.
The goal of the Co-Leaders Group is to prevent avoidable evictions. The key action areas of this framework are as follows:
- Outreach to tenants. Tenants will be given information to help them understand their rights and obtain appropriate resources to remain stably housed.
- Access to emergency financial resources. Tenants will be able to receive funds that help them with short-term financial shortfalls.
- Access to eviction defense. Tenants will have access to legal advice and representation both before and during the eviction process.
- Court processes. The eviction process at the DC Superior Court will be structured appropriately for different cases, and tenants will have access to supportive services such as mediation and housing counseling as part of court procedures.
- Access to broader housing supports. Tenants will receive support in retaining housing subsidies, finding stable housing, and addressing broader housing conditions and challenges.
- Access to community resources. Tenants will receive assistance with obtaining nonhousing supports that can help them remain in stable and safe housing.
- Data to support effective collaboration and tracking results. The Co-Leaders Group and other entities working to prevent evictions will engage in robust data sharing that can drive improved collaboration and better outcomes for tenants.
The past 18 months have shown that a combination of stronger policies and collaborative action can successfully reduce evictions. Yet despite the progress that has been made with current approaches and strategies, a fundamental cause of evictions is the high cost of housing in DC relative to what many people can afford. Simply put, the rent is too high for too many. Emergency rental assistance, access to a lawyer and housing counselor, and other interventions discussed in this framework can have a significant impact for many tenants who face temporary challenges, but they cannot solve the underlying problem of the exorbitantly high cost of housing in DC.
The Co-Leaders Group realizes that this eviction prevention framework is only a starting point for the work that must be done to eliminate the harm that evictions cause in the District of Columbia. It is our hope that this framework can serve as a blueprint for deeper collaboration and concerted action to increase public and private resources, strengthen policies, and change systems to eliminate preventable evictions and, in the long term, improve housing stability in DC.