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Homelessness Prevention through Eviction Diversion: an RCT
Last registered on December 04, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Homelessness Prevention through Eviction Diversion: an RCT
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004854
Initial registration date
October 29, 2019
Last updated
December 04, 2019 7:25 PM EST
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2020-01-01
End date
2023-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Evictions, both informal and court-ordered, are one of the most common pathways to homelessness, but proven interventions to interrupt this pathway are few. Two of three rigorous studies completed in this area show that providing a lawyer to a defendant in formal court eviction proceedings results in fewer court ordered evictions. But there are no corresponding studies regarding whether legal advice provided before the landlord files a formal eviction will result in favorable resolutions for tenants, including improved housing conditions and fewer formal and informal evictions. Is early, low-cost legal assistance an effective, and cost-effective, intervention to prevent evictions that may lead to homelessness? This study hypothesizes that such is the case and will provide rigorous evidence in partnership with Legal Services of Greater Miami. With an anticipated study size of 616 people and a treatment including brief legal advice for individuals threatened with informal eviction by landlords refusing to make repairs, we will learn whether so-called “eviction diversion” is a useful tool to divert individuals and families away from a court eviction, to combat homelessness, and to keep people housed longer.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Danser, Renee and Daniel James Greiner. 2019. "Homelessness Prevention through Eviction Diversion: an RCT." AEA RCT Registry. December 04. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4854-1.1.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The intervention to be studied was developed as a result of increased requests for help with what requestors thought was a formal eviction when in fact a formal eviction had not yet begun but rather a landlord was not making needed repairs to the housing unit. What form of eviction diversion is most useful to clients? In an effort to answer that question, Legal Services of Greater Miami (“LSM”), the field partner, developed an eviction diversion clinic, designed to provide brief legal advice to individuals who request legal assistance when only an informal eviction scenario exists with a goal of avoiding a formal eviction altogether. The tenant demand for legal guidance outweighs the capacity for the program. The clinic currently operates on a “first come, first served” basis, with those who are unable to obtain legal advice receiving a brochure that intends to outline next steps in common informal eviction scenarios.
Intervention Start Date
2020-01-01
Intervention End Date
2022-01-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcome will be whether the clinic avoided a formal eviction and then, if, as a result of the avoidance of that eviction, housing stability improves.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Because of its overall focus on housing stability, our study will thus contribute evidence on the following, more specific question: if a Legal Services Provider (“LSP”) is successful at diverting people from eviction, will that have the effect of diverting people from continued housing instability, reducing the likelihood of homelessness, and reducing instances of poverty?
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Enrollment in the study will occur for 2 years. The study population are low-income individuals or families at risk for eviction. To be enrolled in the study, LSM will perform its normal screening and intake process for people requesting legal assistance that do not have a formal eviction matter pending but assert that the conditions in their dwelling unit are in need of improvement and the landlord has not made improvements despite notification of the need (those that LSM typically diverts to the clinic). Eligibility includes a screening for low-income clients. LSM serves clients at or under 200% of the federal poverty level, for the most part. For those potential study participants eligible for participation in the study, intake professionals at LSM will conduct the informed consent process, informing potential study participants of the study, the voluntary nature of the study, and the randomization scheme. Those individuals that provide consent to participate will be assigned to treatment or control by random assignment. Those assigned to control will be provided the brochure. Those assigned to treatment will be provided with the brochure and provided with the date to appear for the clinic. Those individuals that do not provide consent to participate in the study will be provided with the brochure but will not have the opportunity to participate in the clinic. If an individual does not avoid a formal eviction, they can return to LSM to request full-scope legal representation in that formal eviction matter if they choose. LSM will inform the research team if this happens so A2J Lab can account for this intervention in any results.

To be eligible to participate, all study participants will be required to consent to have housing data collected for two years prior to enrollment into the study and for 2 years upon entry into the study and to participate in surveys administered electronically by A2J Lab. All study participants will be informed that A2J Lab will review the publicly available court data that pertains to any housing court matter they underwent two years prior to entry into the study and that they may undergo two years beyond entry into the study. Study participants will take a baseline survey on site to serve as instruction in using the survey tool and to collect an initial round of survey data on housing. The survey tool has the capacity to manage surveys in all languages involved in the study; LSM will complete the survey translations. The A2J Lab will ensure that follow-up calls all occur in the correct languages.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
0
Sample size: planned number of observations
616 enrolled individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
184 enrolled individuals in treatment.
432 enrolled individuals in control.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The study as proposed utilizes a minimum detectable effect size of a roughly 12% reduction in evictions (at a current baseline rate of 50%, as estimated by the LSP). In practical terms, this effect size would result in at least 11 fewer evictions per year for clients of the LSP. Determining what an appropriate effect size would be is often less of a question of pure statistics than one of values and subject matter expertise. From a statistics standpoint, higher sample sizes and smaller MDEs are always a useful goal, however, aiming for smaller effect sizes often comes with practical costs. Enrolling individuals in a treatment group often entails some type of expenditure of resources, which should be balanced against the potential benefits of a treatment when the actual impacts of a policy are unknown. However, another important cost to consider in this instance is the increased time involved in evaluating the impact of the treatment. The rate at which subjects could enroll in the study is beyond the control of either the evaluators (the A2J Lab) or the LSP (Miami Legal Services). This means that to detect smaller effect sizes, we must wait for more individuals to enroll in the study, which may increase the financial needs to conduct the study. While we do not know if the treatment provides a benefit, thus the reason for conducting the study, determining an appropriate MDE relies on balancing the cost of missing an effect between a proposed MDE and a theoretical smaller MDE and the cost of increasing the length of the study, which may imposes funding burdens. The power calculations illustrate 5 different study lengths and the power levels and MDEs associated with them. Using the baseline data we have, that for evictions, detecting an MDE of roughly 12% would require a study lasting two years. This MDE could be lowered to 10%, which would practically mean 9 fewer evictions per year. However, having enough power to detect the additional 2 fewer evictions per year would require an additional year be added to the length of the study. Reducing the MDE even farther, to 8.5%, would mean a difference in detecting an additional 3.25 evictions per year compared to an MDE of 12%, but it would require an additional two years be added to the length of the study. These calculations reflect a situation with a hypothetical baseline rate of 50%. As the baseline effect moves away from 50%, effect sizes become easier to detect, so this situation represents the most extreme difference between different study designs. At these levels, the additional power provided to the study do not justify the increase in time required to obtain them. Instead, a 12% MDE balances the needs to detect a meaningful treatment effect, 11 fewer evictions per year, against a reasonable timeline for the study. It is for that reason that the A2J lab believes that a two-year randomization period is an appropriate length for the study design.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Harvard University-Area Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
2019-10-23
IRB Approval Number
IRB19-0729