According to the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, “housing cost burden” (households paying a high percentage of monthly income for housing) is “by far the most common housing problem in Baltimore City,” and poor families are especially vulnerable. The Department estimates that more than 25,000 extremely low-income renter households in the city pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing-related costs, placing them at serious risk for eviction if they encounter an unexpected expense or loss of income. With an inadequate supply of affordable housing to meet the needs of Baltimore’s low-income population, these individuals are likely to become homeless if they are evicted.
As part of a citywide strategy to prevent homelessness, in 2010, the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) received a three-year federal grant to represent individuals living in subsidized housing who were facing eviction. After the federal grant ended, the Abell Foundation provided funding to support HPRP’s critical eviction prevention work. HPRP’s Senior Housing Attorney represents and advises clients who are facing either eviction or loss of a Housing Choice Voucher. These cases have enabled HPRP to identify policies and practices that potentially impact many more tenants, and HPRP has worked to address these larger, systemic issues with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to prevent additional tenants from losing their housing.
HPRP’s representation and advocacy has had strong results, preventing eviction or loss of a housing voucher in all cases that have reached final resolution. At the same time, HPRP continues its advocacy to address systemic issues that adversely impact Housing Choice Voucher holders, including issues related to loss of utility service, which can lead to voucher termination. To increase its impact in addressing these issues, HPRP works closely with other legal services and housing advocacy organizations to advocate for policies to expand and preserve housing and services for homeless individuals and those at risk of homelessness.