Year One of the NYC Tenant Right to Counsel Program

By Kelly Regan

Under a 2017 law, New York City provides free legal assistance for qualified tenants facing eviction in housing court. According to a new report released by the city’s Office of Civil Justice (OCJ), the “Universal Access” program has kept more than 21,000 renters in their homes during 2018.

The report, “Universal Access to Legal Services: A Report on Year One of Implementation in New York City,” states that during fiscal 2018, 21,955 city residents across 7,847 households who were threatened with eviction were able to remain in their homes after securing legal representation from OCJ-funded lawyers. Furthermore, in the last quarter of fiscal 2018, approximately 34 percent of tenants citywide who were in Housing Court for eviction proceedings were represented by counsel.

The report hails these numbers an essential step toward leveling the playing field for NYC’s low-income tenants, “not only saving thousands of tenancies but also promoting the preservation of affordable housing and neighborhood stability.”

As Next City has reported, after more than three years of community organizing in support of the bill, last year New York became the first U.S. city to pass a right-to-counsel law for housing court. The OCJ report analyzes Year One of what will be a five-year rollout of the plan across the city. As of late 2018, only 15 of the city’s 211 ZIP codes are now active in the program.

Gothamist reports that housing advocates have called the initial rollout promising, but uneven. According to the website, “Court-appointed lawyers have started to transform the predatory environment of housing court, resulting in fewer evictions, but some eligible tenants still slip through the cracks, and implementation has been more successful in some boroughs than others.”

Figures cited in the report underscore that point. Overall, in the 15 zip codes that have adopted tenant protections, approximately 56 percent of tenants in Housing Court received legal assistance. Breaking it down by borough, Staten Island claimed the highest legal representation rate, at 77 percent, followed by Brooklyn at 72 percent, Manhattan at 61 percent, The Bronx at 52 percent, and Queens at just 41 percent.

What’s next? According to WNYC, council members Vanessa Gibson and Mark Levine have introduced legislation that would raise the income threshold from 200 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty line, which would bring under the umbrella any tenants making the $15 NYC minimum wage.

Since New York’s law took effect, in August 2017, San Francisco voters approved a similar measure, Proposition F, earlier this year.

Read the full story here.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council members on Friday afternoon announced an agreement on the city's $92.8 billion budget for fiscal 2020, with initiatives to improve health care access at its forefront. The budget includes $26 million to place 200 additional social workers—including 85 working within the city's mental health initiative, ThriveNYC—in public...

Under legislation drafted by the City Council, the de Blasio administration would have to report on its efforts to notify school staff and the students who attended dozens of public schools during the 2001-02 school year that were not far from the World Trade Center site about programs available for...

The city is trying to have tenants sign new leases that only list one official occupant. By Noah Manskar, Patch Staff NEW YORK — New York City is forcing tenants of beleaguered buildings that it owns to sign new leases — and the conditions have raised hackles among lawyers and lawmakers....

By Brian M. Rosenthal The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a separate investigation into the brokers who helped arrange...

City Councilmember Mark Levine has announced the 2019 winners of participatory budgeting in his district, which includes parts of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights and Washington Heights. The projects to receive funding are: $250,000 for air conditioning upgrades and new water fountains at P.S. 165 Robert E. Simon School...

By Sabrina Mallot Last fall, the City Council introduced a package of 18 bills aimed at preventing tenants from being displaced due to aggressive tactics from landlords like exploitative buyout agreements or nuisance construction. On Wednesday, May 8, all but one passed. They still require the mayor’s signature, but he...

By Eddie Small The hallways of Bronx Housing Court are crowded and chaotic on a typical weekday morning. Lawyers and tenants scurry across the white tile floors and lounge on the worn-down benches of the Grand Concourse building, where occasionally the sound of one person shouting out a name will...

By Elizabeth Kim A collaboration between a group of housing rights advocates has produced the most comprehensive database yet to measure evictions across New York City and identify many of the landlords responsible for them. Three advocacy groups — Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, JustFix.nyc, and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project —...

Sign up for our mailing list!

Report a Problem Participatory Budgeting Events