Please join Council Member Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson on Monday, September 26th at 9:30am for a press conference on the steps of City Hall and at 10am for a hearing at the Chambers on intro 214A, a local law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to providing legal counsel for low-income eligible tenants who are subject to eviction, ejectment or foreclosure proceedings.
Unlike in criminal cases, there is no right to counsel in housing court. Tenants without resources must fend for themselves. Today only about 20% of those facing eviction have the assistance of an attorney--as compared to nearly 100% of landlords.
The resulting unlevel playing field has been disastrous for tenants. In 2015, 21,988 New York City families were evicted. Many thousands more left their homes under duress mid-way through eviction proceedings.
This wave of evictions is driving our homeless crisis. The IBO reports that eviction is the single most common reason that families in New York City end up in shelters, and that over the past decade the share of families citing eviction as the cause for their homelessness has increased.
Evictions are also leading to a loss of affordable housing, as over half of the units vacated are rent stabilized, and many of those apartments then go market rate.
Controlled studies indicate that having legal representation during housing court proceedings reduces the chances of eviction by 77%. Legal aid providers report that in some cases landlords simply drop their cases when they realize the tenant has an attorney.
The City, thanks to the leadership of Mayor de Blasio and the City Council has made great strides in addressing this crisis over the last two and a half years. In FY17, City funding for legal services for tenants has increased to approximately $62 million, 10 times the investment made by the previous administration. And this historical investment is paying off. A recent report by the office of civil justice shows evictions have fallen 24 percent in the last two years.
This data affirms what we already know. Investing in legal services is effective. A report by a private financial firm shows that Right to Counsel will not only pay for itself but will save the city more than $320 million per year. Keeping families and older adults in their homes and avoiding homelessness will also avert long term costs associated with homelessness in health, education, employment and other areas. The price of full legal representation in Housing Court is estimated at $1,600- $3,200 per case. If we don’t invest in lawyers for tenants, it will cost us much more to find housing for tenants who have been evicted: each bed in a New York City municipal shelter costs $36,000 per year; developing a single affordable housing unit costs over $250,000.
A broad coalition of leaders and organizations has coalesced around the movement to expand representation in housing court. Supporters include nearly every major tenants rights and affordable housing group in the city, unions, and advocacy groups. The movement has support from a number of national organizations, including the National Center for Access to Justice and the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel.
We are honored to have 42 Council Members sponsoring this game-changing legislation that would make New York City the first jurisdiction in America to take such historic action. But to make this happen - we need to hear from you!
9:30am on the steps of City Hall
10am City Hall Chambers
City Hall Park
New York, NY 10007
Google map and directions