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Frey housing initiative beats goal

Kevin Featherly//October 25, 2019

Frey housing initiative beats goal

Kevin Featherly//October 25, 2019

By one key measure, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s pro-bono housing initiative is ahead of schedule in its efforts to represent clients in eviction defense, rent escrow and tenant-remedy actions.

A one-year goal of the More Representation Minneapolis initiative was to increase legal assistance to Twin Cities tenants by 20%. As measured by attorney hours logged, that goal was achieved three months ahead of schedule, Frey said last week.

Attorneys with the Volunteer Lawyers Network have logged 2,300 hours of pro-bono support for Twin Cities tenants. That’s up from 1,900 hours last year—a 20% increase.

Frey, himself an attorney, announced the push last November. At the time, 12 law firms were signed up to help with the effort, which is anchored by the Volunteer Lawyers Network and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. Now 16 law firms are involved.

Having a lawyer can make a “staggering” difference, Frey said. Almost 80% of tenants who have a lawyer but end up moving out of a dwelling leave court with no eviction record, he said. Just 6% manage to do that with no attorney, he said.

Overall, fewer than 10% of tenants facing eviction in Hennepin County have lawyers, while roughly half of landlords are represented by counsel. “Through More Representation Minneapolis, our pro-bono legal community is doing life changing work,” Frey said.

In an interview Monday, Volunteer Lawyers Network Resource Attorney Muria Kruger said client representation has increased across all of her group’s housing categories—which includes rent escrow, eviction expungements and evictions.

A new, city-funded Eviction Representation Pilot program is responsible for at least some of that increase, Kruger said. The program, which didn’t exist prior to the Frey initiative, placed lawyers in 51 fully represented eviction cases this year, as of Oct. 17.

The pro-bono program also is on pace to meet another of its goals—increasing the raw total of participating volunteers by 20%. By the end of the year, Kruger said, she expects that the hoped-for number, 310 volunteer attorneys, will have been reached.

“We’re not going to meet that goal early like we did with the overall housing hours, but we’re on target to meet it by the end of the year,” she said.

The law firms signed on through the Volunteer Lawyers Network to help in the program include Briggs and Morgan, P.A.; Faegre Baker Daniels LLP; Fish & Richardson; Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.; Gray Plant Mooty; Jones Day; Maslon LLP; Merchant & Gould; Stinson LLP; Robins Kaplan LLP; McEllistrem, Fargione, Landy, Rorvig & Eken, P.A.; Gregerson, Rosow, Johnson & Nilan, Ltd.; Felhaber Larson; Barnes & Thornburg LLP; Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie P.A.; and Dorsey & Whitney.

For more information about More Representation Minneapolis or to sign up as a volunteer, contact Kruger at 612-752-6647; or [email protected].

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