Legal Aid gets $300k from Wells Fargo Foundation to keep renters in their homes

Grants to help renters impacted by COVID-19 with legal assistance to avoid eviction, part of the company’s efforts to keep people housed

RALEIGH—Up to 40 million U.S. renters may face eviction by the end of the year due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. People of color, including Black and Hispanic tenants, represent 80% of people potentially facing eviction once federal rental protections end, according to research from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.

While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a temporary moratorium halting the eviction of tenants who cannot pay rent through the end of the year, the moratorium requires that tenants must still file a federal declaration form to be eligible for the eviction protection. Additionally, tenants are obligated to navigate varying state laws and local legal proceedings.

Legal Aid of North Carolina today announced a $300,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation which will enable Legal Aid to provide free or low-cost legal assistance and representation for North Carolinians disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and at risk of eviction.

“Lack of legal representation for low-income people is a glaring equity gap,” said Rulon Washington, community outreach manager with the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We believe supporting efforts to provide low-income renters at risk with legal assistance is an important step in helping the most vulnerable people stay housed.”

Harvard researchers found an estimated 90% of landlords have legal representation, while only 10% of tenants do, putting them at a significant disadvantage. However, two-thirds of tenants with legal representation are more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their home.

“Simply having a lawyer by their side can make all the difference between a tenant staying in their home or being out on the street,” said Yolanda Taylor, managing attorney of Legal Aid’s Wilson office. “Increasing the ability of tenants to access free legal help is critical during this crisis, and support from all sectors is vital to ensuring that such help is available. Ensuring housing stability is one way that institutions can contribute to the restorative economics of those who have faced systemic barriers to economic opportunity. By working together, we can make sure that struggling families stay where they belong—at home, safe and sound. We appreciate Wells Fargo’s recognition of the importance of this work.”

As part of its $175 million response to COVID-19, the Wells Fargo Foundation has made more than 1,200 grants in support of national and local nonprofits to help keep people housed.

The Wells Fargo Foundation efforts to address the housing affordability crisis in response to COVID-19 includes expanding the capacity of housing counselors to respond to renters and homeowners, supporting nonprofits that provide affordable rental homes and services, and funding for legal assistance organizations to provide legal counsel and representation for renters at-risk of eviction. These efforts are part of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s $1 billion philanthropic commitment to address housing affordability solutions by 2025 by investing in strategies to advance housing stability, increasing supply of affordable homes; expanding homeownership opportunities for people of color; and driving transformation and innovation in local communities.

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About Legal Aid of North Carolina

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.97 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,300 locations, more than 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 31 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 266,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 30 on Fortune’s 2020 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories. 

Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.

Media contact

Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, Legal Aid of North Carolina, 919-856-2132, seand@legalaidnc.org