AKRON, Ohio — The city of Akron has the highest number of evictions per year in Ohio. Many advocates have said they hope to see this number come down and have pointed to cities like Cleveland. 

What You Need To Know

  • The city of Akron see’s around 300 evictions per month 

  • Housing advocates want to see a right to counsel program put in place in Akron 

  • The city of Cleveland already has a right to counsel program 

W. Moná Scott is the administrative judge of the Cleveland Housing Court. She took the bench in 2020. 

“Housing court is a community court. It belongs to the community,” Scott said. “It should be accessible.” 

Scott said she knows how stressful the process of evection can be. 

One of the ways Cleveland is trying to help lower the eviction rate in the city is by providing people who are facing evictions — that live at or below the federal poverty line with at least one child — the right to free legal help in housing court. 

The right to counsel went into effect on July 1, 2020. 

“The attorneys on the case, the landlords attorney and the tenants attorney can kind of help bring both parties, that may be some contention going on, to a resolution through mediation,” Scott said. 

Less than an hour away from judge Scott’s courtroom in Cleveland, Steven McGarrity, the executive director at Community Legal Aid, said Akron sees around 300 evictions each month, while Cleveland sees around 160 cases per month. 

“Right to counsel is not really a right unless there is a law that creates that right," McGarrity said. "So, the city of Cleveland passed an ordinance creating a right to counsel for families under 100% of the poverty guidelines with children in the household. Well what everyone, so far, has looked at in Akron, was finding money and giving some people or more people an attorney, but still not truly a right to counsel and I doubt that will happen between now and the end of the year.” 

He believes one of the best ways to lower evictions in Akron would be to enact a similar right to counsel program like Cleveland already has. 

“It would really have a transformative effect on some of our neighborhoods, where the turnover is just really incredible,” he said. “The fabric of those neighborhoods is constantly being torn up by people coming in and out because of the evictions.” 

Democratic mayoral nominee, Shammas Malik, who is running unopposed, said a right to counsel program will be a key priority for him, if officially elected. 

“We have talked about it and we have built the consensus around it and everyone is at the table but now we need to make sure it is implemented well,” Malik said. “So that is going to be a big priority for me, because that, from what we have seen in Cleveland, has kept hundreds of people, I think more than that, from being homeless, and has helped them find a safe landing space, even if they are evicted.” 

Along with right to counsel, Malik said he has other ideas on how to help with the eviction and housing crisis, including creating more affordable housing. 

“We’ve gone from having 45% of people rent to 55% of people rent over the last 15 years since the recession,” Malik said. “That has created so much demand that people can’t afford rent.”