Franklin County residents facing eviction might find some assistance in the form of rent supplement and legal advice.

Columbus City Council is expected to approve an eviction-prevention fund, which would set aside $300,000 to provide emergency funds for rent and mortgage-payment help from the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, which would provide access to a Tenant Advocacy Project attorney to advocate on behalf of residents.

The Legal Aid Society created the Tenant Advocacy Project in March 2017. The project runs a daily clinic that provides legal help for tenants facing eviction in Franklin County Municipal Court. TAP also receives support from the Columbus Foundation, the Ohio State Bar Foundation and PNC Bank. The goals of TAP are to lower displacement caused by eviction and increase access to affordable housing for low-income tenants.

Impact Community Action’s emergency-assistance department would provide rental or mortgage help, Favor said. Impact serves more than 20,000 families and individuals who are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level by providing such emergency assistance as household items, burial support, rent/mortgage, transportation, water- and energy-program assistance and food giveaways.

“This is only the beginning,” said council member Shayla Favor, who’s leading the effort, which seeks to close a gap in emergency funding.

If approved, the program is expected to begin in January. It would include $200,000 in funding from Columbus, to be split equally between the Legal Aid Society and Impact. The Legal Aid Society also would provide $100,000 for the program.

The outline of the effort was presented to the public Oct. 8 at Impact Community Action, 700 Bryden Road.

A study conducted in 2017 by Ohio State University’s Glenn College of Public Affairs showed that 41% of all filed evictions in 2016 in Franklin County were in six ZIP codes: 43204, 43224, 43228, 43229, 43213 and 43232, said Lee Cole, spokeswoman for Columbus City Council.

The largest portion of the money would go to the Legal Aid Society, which has a presence in what often is termed “eviction court” in Franklin County Municipal Court.

The eviction process has several steps, said Ben Horne, managing attorney for the Legal Aid Society.

An eviction notice sends a red flag to landlords, who might not want to rent to those with such a mark on their records, Horne said.

Such actions also have a lasting effect on tenants’ credit ratings, though most people who receive the notice are behind by only a month or less with their payments, Horne said.

Favor said the $100,000 would be used by Impact. It is expected to help about 90 families in the first year, Favor said, but it is not necessarily a one-time disbursement. Those who need short-term monthly financial assistance would receive it, she said. A cap on the amount of assistance one may receive has not been set.

Franklin County processes about 19,000 evictions each year, Horne said.

Those who need legal assistance should go to Franklin County Municipal Court, 375 S. High St. Those seeking emergency funding should call Impact at 614-252-2799.

Fewer than 1% of tenants who work with TAP leave court with an eviction judgment, according to information provided by the city.

“Our goal is to keep families housed,” Horne said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

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