by Alex Werth
EBASE Policy & Research Advisor
In December 2022, our organization released a critical report revealing the grave disparity between tenants and landlords during eviction court proceedings across Contra Costa County, and the disproportionate impact of the lack of tenant legal services on vulnerable and low-income communities of color.
This report is based on the observation of 56 UD trials and follow-up engagement with tenants. It describes demographic trends in eviction and legal services in Contra Costa County from May to mid-October 2022, the period during which the last state eviction protections came to an end. It also lays out three key findings about the challenges faced by low-income and unrepresented tenants in accessing court-based assistance and, ultimately, justice. These points are illustrated by stories documented by the Eviction Court Watch participants who observed them. The report concludes with four recommendations to reverse Contra Costa County’s accelerating increase in homelessness by making eviction court more balanced, transparent, and just.
The recommendations are that Contra Costa County should (a) create a tenant right to counsel, (b) provide rental assistance that can quickly cover back-owed rent to stop or mitigate evictions, (c) pass local tenant protections to address the gaps in state law, and (d) make eviction court data a regular, recurring, and transparent part of the policymaking process.
This report is the result of a collective process of data collection and analysis, and was not possible without the help of Raise the Roof Coalition members, especially individuals from Ensuring Opportunity, Monument Impact, East Bay Housing Organizations, and ACCE Institute.