Controller proposes right-to-counsel program so renters and homeowners can access funds to pay monthly housing bills

Written by on August 26, 2021

Controller proposes right-to-counsel program so renters and homeowners can access funds to pay monthly housing bills

By Hayden Mitman

August 26, 2021

Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley at a press conference July 21, 2021. Photo | Ben Stemrich / WLVR

More than half of all renters in the region are considered “cost-burdened” according to data from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

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This means these households are more likely to struggle to afford basic needs like rent and utilities. 

Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley said there’s still about $20 million in federal funds to help renters avoid eviction. 

Right now more than 2,500 local residents are working with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

“You know, and then our goal of course is to get that money out to people,” Pinsley said.

The process could be improved by providing renters with a way to negotiate with landlords, he said.

“Most of these landlords, they aren’t really interested in evicting you. Right? What they are interested in is getting their money. People that aren’t paying their rent, they can’t pay for legal aid either,” Pinsley said.

He has proposed using about $1 million of the county’s designated funds to create a right-to-counsel program.

Pinsley said it could save the county millions in court and human services costs.

“The most important concept of legal aid is both sides benefit,” he said. “You know, the landlord benefits, the renter benefits and beyond that, the county benefits because now our courts aren’t, you know, stuck with these eviction processes.”

A study by the Philadelphia Bar Association found that a similar program there would provide about $45 million in annual savings for taxpayers.

Pinsley’s proposal would need approval by the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners

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