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The fight by Kansas City renters for the right to counsel

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KC Tenants Right To Counsel
Carlos Moreno
Kansas Citians demonstrated for the right of tenants to have a lawyer appointed to them in eviction court.

KC Tenants and other housing rights groups in Kansas City proposed a Tenants' Right to Counsel city ordinance to provide legal help — free of charge — to tenants facing eviction.

In eviction court, landlords are represented by an attorney over 90% of the time, while tenants in Kansas City are represented less than 3% of the time.

Tara Raghuveer, the founding director of KC Tenants, a local organization that works to ensure Kansas Citians have safe and affordable housing, says that tenants with legal representation are substantially more likely to stay in their homes.

"Eviction court is not a place where you see justice occur. It's really a performance of justice, it looks a lot like debt collection or an auction," says Raghuveer. "An eviction case often takes just moments to be decided by a judge. In many cases, tenants don't show up to court because they already know what the outcome is. It feels like it's been predetermined."

6th District At-Large Councilwoman Andrea Bough supports the Tenants Right to Counsel ordinance. The councilwoman believes that if our society is going to deprive individuals and families of what she calls a basic human right, then they should be provided legal representation.

"We need to insert some element of fairness into the system," Councilwoman Bough argues. "We as a city have conversations about affordable housing and houselessness, and we're often addressing the end results. We need to address the actual cause."

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