A new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab, a policy vertical of The Appeal, shows that Connecticut voters support legislation that would create a statewide right to counsel for those facing evictions:
Sixty-seven percent of Connecticut voters—including 81 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans—would back the creation of a state program that provides lawyers to tenants facing eviction, with support cutting across age, gender, education, and racial demographic categories.
Polling & Findings
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut residents have lost their jobs, struggled to receive unemployment insurance, or gone back to work for reduced wages because of continuing pandemic-related restrictions. As a result, more Connecticut renters have found themselves unable to pay rent and facing the threat of eviction, particularly nonwhite renters. In over half of the eviction cases filed in Connecticut between April and December 2020, tenants were Black or Latinx, even though these groups make up less than a quarter of the state’s population.
In September 2020, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont extended Connecticut’s eviction moratorium, but with a big caveat that allows landlords to initiate eviction proceedings against tenants who owe six months of rent or more. Following this order, eviction filings jumped from 198 in September to 308 in October before hitting 599 in February, according to Melissa Marichal, a staff attorney at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center. Between October 2020 and mid-March of this year, 1,034 people were removed from their homes.
While COVID-19 has exacerbated eviction crises across the country, the deck was stacked against tenants in eviction court long before the pandemic began. The end of eviction moratoriums will find thousands of individuals trying to navigate eviction proceedings, and yet only seven percent of renters facing eviction in Connecticut are represented by an attorney, compared to 81 percent of the landlords they are up against. Without counsel, tenants are far more likely to lose their cases and their homes, with devastating consequences: evictions can lead to homelessness, physical and mental health problems, unemployment, and an eviction record that will make it hard to find housing in the future.
Connecticut now has a chance to protect its renters’s access to justice. HB 6531 seeks to set up a “state-wide ‘right to counsel program,’ to provide free legal representation to income-eligible tenants, lessees, or occupants of any residential building or land.” If it passes, the bill will establish a statewide guarantee to legal representation in eviction proceedings.
From April 9 to April 14, 2021, Data for Progress conducted a survey of 707 likely voters in Connecticut using web panel respondents. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, and voting history. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.