New pledge helps Metro Detroit families facing eviction

The Detroit eviction defense fund is expected to help up to 6,000 Detroiters a year

A foundation connected to billionaire Dan Gilbert is investing $13 million in a fund to help low-income Detroit residents facing eviction.

DETROIT – The latest Gilbert Family Foundation donation to help Detroiters stay in their homes aims to address the eviction process.

The Detroit Eviction Defense Fund is a $13 million donation that would allow those who qualify financially to have legal representation in what often is the fight of their lives.

An evaluation of 30,000 evictions showed Detroit tenants had legal representation 4%of the time. Landlords had a lawyer 83% of the time.

It also showed that in the cases where the landlord prevailed, half of them would’ve gone the other way had the renter had legal aid.

“Almost all landlords have representation while the vast majority of tenants do not, resulting in landlords evicting tenants because they have power, not because the law actually supports their position,” said Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield.

The Gilbert Foundation study found that this all has an effect. In 2017, 12% of the people evicted left the city altogether.

“Renters today are vulnerable,” said the Co-Founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation, Jennifer Gilbert. “Even those who pay their rent regularly are susceptible to the whims of their landlord. They are often put in the position of having to decide whether to live in unsafe conditions after advocating for routine maintenance.”

That’s the same thing that Lovely Pruiett went through 10 years ago.

“The carpet was wet, water was dripping from the ceiling, and it was all because of radiators,” said Pruiett.

After a long, drawn-out legal process, Pruiett was one of the lucky ones who won without an attorney, but it took a toll.

“It’s very stressful,” Pruiett said. “You still have to go to work, still have to feed your kids, you still have to maintain, they have to go to school, they have to stay clean, they have to stay healthy, so what do you do?”

Of the $13-million, $12 million is earmarked for Lakeshore Legal Aid, Michigan Legal Services, and the United Community Housing Coalition. The legal teams are charged with leveling the playing field.

The Detroit eviction defense fund is expected to help up to 6,000 Detroiters a year.


About the Authors:

Jason anchors Local 4's 5:30 p.m. newscast. He joined WDIV in January 2015 as a general assignment reporter and has a Journalism degree from Michigan State University.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.