Headshot of Emily Blackshire

Emily Blackshire

  • Hosted by South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center
  • Sponsored by Housing Justice Program
  • Service location Columbia, South Carolina
  • Law school University of South Carolina School of Law
  • Issue area Housing/Eviction
  • Fellowship class year 2022
  • Program Housing Justice Program

The Project

Emily’s (she/her) project will focus on expanding tenants’ rights in counties across South Carolina.

In South Carolina and across the country, eviction rates are rising as eviction moratoria have ended, housing shortages result in increased rent, and urban and small-town renewal projects alike have displaced low-income residents. Legal proceedings are confusing and intimidating for tenants facing eviction and there are not designated times or places in court that matters related to housing are handled separately from other civil cases. This confusion is compounded by barriers to court attendance, let alone retention of counsel, including a lack of reliable transportation or childcare, or financial insecurity that is usually the cause of the eviction lawsuit in the first place. Because evictions can be automatic when a tenant fails to appear in court, and because evictions in South Carolina remain on a person’s record for life, tenants facing eviction can face lifelong collateral consequences that could have been avoided had a tenant had access to legal representation at or before a court date.

Fellowship Plans

Emily plans to partner with magistrate courts and community organizers across several counties to create infrastructure for a housing court system that provides access to counsel for all tenants at risk of eviction. Housing Courts would allow each tenant facing eviction access to an attorney, and terms of court would be held at specific and consistent times wherein only issues regarding landlords and tenants would be heard. These courts would be tailored to the needs of each county that will host them, accounting for the specific barriers experienced by tenants in both urban and rural areas.

Media

How a Criminal Record Can Lead To a Lifetime of Housing Issues in South Carolina

Bill Would Provide More Legal Support to SC Tenants Facing Eviction

2023 Housing Justice Program Highlights

Columbia Apartment Residents Say They’ve Been Without Cool Air for Weeks, Property Management Not Helping

Mold, Roaches, Evictions: Housing Lawyer Calls Columbia Housing Authority Properties ‘Uninhabitable’

Columbia Housing Tenants Cite Poor Conditions at Apartment Complexes, Demand Changes

As a former public defender, I have seen firsthand how integral stable housing is to all aspects of a person’s legal, personal, and social wellbeing. I am so excited that this Equal Justice Works fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with community members across my home state to protect tenants and keep our neighbors housed.”

Emily Blackshire /
2022 Fellow in the Housing Justice Program

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