Thanks to your advocacy and action for a Right to Counsel in eviction court, City Council heard our message and pushed for an increase from $500,000 to $2 million at the November 12th budget hearing. Councilmembers know renters deserve representation in eviction court. Now it’s up to the Mayor to decide if she will increase the Right to Counsel budget. With any less than $2 million, families will be put out on the street.
During the budget hearing, Councilmember Helena Moreno rightly argued that Right to Counsel has “already been proven to work in other cities” so there’s no need for an underfunded pilot program that will leave people out. Councilmember Joe Giarrusso noted his personal experiences as an attorney saying people get “steamrolled without lawyers” and urged the City to fully fund the program to make sure people are “treated fairly.” The final decision on funding for Right to Counsel is in the Mayor’s hands.
No matter what we look like or what neighborhood we live in, we all deserve a safe and healthy home. Since 2015, the New Orleans Mayor and City Council have considered, but failed to create a program to make this a reality. Instead slumlords, like Sylvia Burn’s—whose ceiling collapsed during Hurricane Ida after she lodged a years’ worth of complaints about leaks—have profited off our lax health and safety protections. Our health and safety can no longer be ignored.
We need a Healthy Homes program to set basic health and safety standards for all rentals, like safe and operating plumbing, electrical systems, and heat and air conditioning, as well as roofs and walls free of leaks and mold. Slumlords with big buildings and dozens of units should be prioritized for regular safety inspections. Small “mom and pop” landlords should be offered support to bring their properties up to code. And renters should be protected from retaliation.
Across Louisiana, LaFHAC has documented multiple instances of city and parish councils acquiescing to small groups of mostly white homeowners intent on denying approval to affordable housing developments.