New Eviction Defense Clinic focuses on improving housing stability

picture of eviction notice paper with a mask next to it

In response to the rising need for eviction defense, the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Economic Justice Institute (EJI) was awarded funding to provide dedicated legal assistance for eviction services. EJI oversees five other civil, anti-poverty clinical programs and will house the new Eviction Defense Clinic.

Launched in fall 2021, the Eviction Defense Clinic serves an important unmet need, according to EJI Director Mitch.

“Through the existing work we do in EJI, we have witnessed the importance of maintaining housing stability,” says Mitch. “Stable housing benefits everyone, whether they rent or not. Stable housing means our coworkers who rent can come to work instead of scrambling to find new housing, and our children’s friends whose parents rent can stay in school and succeed.”

It can also lead to healthier communities, says Mitch, as stable housing reduces the spread of COVID-19 variants that occurs if people are forced to involuntarily move.

“Having dedicated staff and students to focus directly on improving housing stability goes a long way to meeting an important legal need that will benefit everyone in our community,” says Mitch.

The funding for the program comes as part of federal emergency rental assistance.

On August 4, the City of Madison Common Council voted unanimously to accept $16 million in federal emergency rental assistance funding, directing $15 million to direct aid for families and individuals and almost $1 million for legal assistance. The legal assistance funding enables local legal aid providers to hire new staff and expand services. The funding has also enabled the Law School to quickly create an Eviction Defense Clinic, hiring a supervising attorney and utilizing law students who will earn clinical credits while providing eviction defense legal services to those in need.

“Erica López, an incredible legal advocate who has worked with Legal Action of Wisconsin for years, will serve as the clinical instructor and supervisor of the Eviction Defense Clinic,” says Mitch. “Together, with our dedicated clinical law students, we look forward to the work ahead to provide legal assistance in these challenging times.”