From: The Honorable Keith Ellison
Sent By:

Bill: H.R. 1146
Date: 4/3/2017

Endorsed By: FirstFocus Campaign for Children, National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty, Schoolhouse Connection, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia or Community Legal Services, Inc., Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty
Law, National Low Income Housing Coalition

Dear Colleague:

Please join me in supporting the Equal Opportunity for Residential Representation Act of 2017.

Court is a difficult place to be if you cannot afford an attorney. As you may know, low-income and working families are not guaranteed counsel in civil court, so accessing legal representation in Tenant or Housing Court is not only difficult, but it can
also mean the difference between keeping your house or being evicted. As America faces a shortage of affordable housing and

rising rates of eviction in many cities
, it is critical we both expand access to affordable housing as well as prevent the trauma and economic consequences of homelessness, eviction, or tenant-landlord conflicts.

A recent
regarding New York City tenants facing eviction found that by providing legal representation to all low-income tenants, the city would save more than $300 million annually, as the effort would reduce the number of tenants and families seeking housing
in shelters. New York City recently
passed an initiative
to ensure tenants with incomes under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level would have a right to an attorney in Tenant Court. A similar proposal was also introduced in the

Massachusetts State House

Providing legal representation is one of many evidenced-based solutions to our affordable housing crisis. My legislation would create a pilot program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide grants to state-based organizations to
provide legal and supportive services to low-income and working families at 80 percent or below of the Area Medium Income for the course of a 4 year period of time. This will create an opportunity for communities to identify the best way to provide legal services,
and create their own program that fits the needs of their constituents.  This legislation is paid for by clarifying the amount of mortgage interest a person can deduct from their taxes. By using the savings from this clarification, we can invest in a wide
range of measures that preserve and expand access to affordable housing.

Congress should follow the lead of Massachusetts and New York City and ensure that working families get justice in Tenant/Housing Court. If you have any questions regarding this bill or would like to cosponsor, please contact


Keith Ellison

Member of Congress