9 “John,” a young man with a serious medical condition, required an extended hospital stay that caused him to lose his job and fall behind on the rent on his San Francisco apartment. However, when Mintz Levin attorney Matt Show presented the landlord with information about John’s new job, he was able to negotiate a settlement that not only gave John time to pay the back rent, but allowed him to stay in his home. The burgeoning population and scant housing supply in San Francisco have kept prices high in the area for years, but the recent tech boom has exacerbated the problem, leading to stratospheric rental prices across the city. Given the potential profits for landlords, many are looking to evict long-standing tenants to get newer tenants who are willing to pay much higher rents. Indeed, there were 1,881 evictions filed in the city in the past year alone. Before an eviction can proceed to court, however, the landlord and tenant must participate in a housing settlement conference, similar to the one John had with his landlord. Historically, 95% of tenants participating in these housing settlement conferences have negotiated with their landlords without the benefit of advice from an attorney. To help balance the scales of justice, the court system, the Eviction Defense Collaborative, and the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco collaborated in 2006 to establish the Housing Negotiation Project. A component of the Justice & Diversity Center’s larger Eviction Defense Project, it is overseen by the bar. “We’re providing equal access to justice,” said attorney Carolyn Gold, Project Director for the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program. “We help level the playing field for tenants, since virtually all the landlords have attorneys.” Today, Mintz Levin attorneys are among those who donate their time to the Housing Negotiation Project to ensure tenants’ rights are protected. Often an attorney can help a tenant come to a settlement agreement and avoid getting taken to court, and can sometimes help the tenant retain a stable living situation. “Many of our clients are at a disadvantage,” said Matt, who received an award for his volunteer work with the project. “Some are on government assistance and have no savings, or they have a mental or physical disability. Sometimes they’re one step away from living on the street. Some of the cases we work on are heart-wrenching. But at the end of the day, you know that you helped someone, whether it’s protecting them from crushing debt or finding a way for them to stay in their home.” Given the surging housing prices in the San Francisco market, Matt believes that John wouldn’t have been able to find comparable housing in the city if he’d lost his apartment. “He was very happy with the outcome of our settlement,” Matt said. Looking Out for Our Neighbors “Pro bono support is critical to the success of our program. Without Matthew’s very capable legal assis- tance and help from other Mintz Levin attorneys in the firm’s pro bono program, some low-income tenants facing unfair evictions would be left at a severe disadvantage.” Carolyn Gold Project Director,Volunteer Legal Services Program Bar Association of San Francisco