Ensuring Safe, Affordable Housing


Before COVID-19, almost half of all renter households–20.8 million–were experiencing rental cost-burden (paying more than 30% of their income on housing). In the period of 2000 to 2016, the rate of evictions in the US was one out of every forty renters. This crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color. Black women renters, for instance, face eviction at twice the rate of white renters. Households with children are three times as likely to receive an eviction notice compared to renter households without kids.

The long-term crisis of renter housing instability has been exacerbated by the interconnected health and financial crises stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. A report from August found that 30-40 million people in the US were at risk of eviction in the following months. Evictions force tenants onto the street or into high-crime, poorer neighborhoods. While states and the federal government have taken measures to mitigate this, eviction moratoriums will eventually end, leaving many renters vulnerable.


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What Cities Can Do

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Eviction Mediation Programs

Eviction Mediation Programs provide landlords and tenants an opportunity to address disputes prior to official eviction filings. The parties can reach an agreement without going through a court proceeding, or if no agreement is reached, it still allows for the dispute to be taken to court. 

The City of Palo Alto, CA has provided free conciliation and mediation services for the community for the past 30 years. The Palo Alto Mediation Program utilized trained volunteers to resolve community disputes. The Program is run out of the City of Palo Alto Human Relations Commission and administered by Project Sentinel, a private nonprofit with a focus on dispute resolution services. The program facilitates approximately 150 cases a year, with 80% of cases reaching resolution. 

Kalamazoo County, MI started an eviction diversion program in 2010 to offer emergency rental assistance and connect at-risk renters with social services, community health providers, nonprofits, and legal aid. These organizations help tenants address the circumstances that led to the eviction claim or other housing crises they may face. The program involves outreach to landlords and stresses the benefits of avoiding costly eviction proceedings. In 2013, the program prevented more than a thousand adults and children from losing their homes. A similar program was also implemented statewide during the pandemic.

Eviction Diversion Programs

Eviction Diversion Programs are multi-layered strategies to avert legal actions against tenants while upholding the rights of landlords. 

Durham County, NC launched the Eviction Diversion Program in 2017. The Eviction Diversion Program is a partnership between Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Durham office, Duke Law’s Civil Justice Clinic, the Durham County Department of Social Services (DSS), and the courts. It helps tenants learn about the help available to them, with the goal to “keep them (tenants) in their current home with a clean rental record”. The program attorneys work with landlords to create payment plans to avoid disruptive evictions, and assist in raising legal defenses or claims of the tenant against the landlord. They focus on negotiations and creating the best possible outcome for the tenant within the eviction process. The program has helped clients avoid eviction judgements 80% of the time and has kept two-thirds of tenants in their homes. 

Richmond, VA is piloting an Eviction Diversion Program in collaboration with Central Virginia Legal Aid and Housing Opportunities Made Equal. Their goal was to stop eviction proceedings for 500 Richmond residents in the first year. To achieve this they provided pro bono attorneys as mediators for court and negotiation proceedings, financial literacy education, financial assistance for tenants who qualify, and payment plan agreements to ensure rent is received on time. Since October 2019, GRBF staff and volunteers have assisted hundreds of tenants, secured over 100 payment plans, and worked with HOME to keep tenants in their homes. 

Bolster Rental Assistance

Boston, MA has established an $8 million rental relief fund based in federal stimulus funds. The fund helps income-eligible tenants in Boston who do not have access to unemployment benefits in order to ensure housing stability. The Rental Relief Fund is managed by the Office of Housing Stability with three nonprofit partners, Metro Housing|Boston, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, and Project Hope.