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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
/
KCUR
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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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.