Additional $93 million provides all NYC tenants facing eviction access to free legal advice and low-income tenants with full legal representation
Biggest city to offer universal access, available at the City’s Housing Court and through 311
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito today announced that, for the first time, the City will fund universal access to legal services for tenants facing eviction in New York City Housing Court. A $93 million allocation doubles the Administration’s existing funding for tenant legal services. Legal services have proven effective at reducing unlawful evictions and preventing displacement. Since beginning an unprecedented expansion of tenant legal aid two years ago, evictions have dropped by 24 percent.
“We are the biggest city in the country to level the playing field between tenants and landlords in housing court. To anyone being forced out of their home or neighborhood, we are fighting for you. This is still your city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Bringing more justice to vulnerable New Yorkers is a hallmark of this City Council,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Since passing landmark legislation in 2015 to create the Office of the Civil Justice Coordinator, the Council has tirelessly worked to figure out how to best provide legal representation to all low-income New Yorkers facing eviction. Today, we're closer than ever to realizing this goal. The groundbreaking legislation outlined by the City Council and the Mayor will ensure that no low-income New Yorker is forced from their home without legal representation.
“This historic access to counsel program builds on the work done to protect tenants since 2014 though the Office of Civil Justice at the Department of Social Services, which has already increased the number of tenants protected by a lawyer in Housing Court from 1 percent to 27 percent and helped reduce evictions by 24 percent,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks.
The new funds are on top of the City’s unprecedented $62 million-a-year commitment to expand legal services for tenants, which launched in 2014. The new funds will be phased in over the next five fiscal years, starting with $15 million in Fiscal Year 2018, to reach $93 million by 2022. At full implementation, the City’s investment in anti-eviction legal services will total $155 million.
The City Council will memorialize the program in legislation.
Since January 2014, Administration-funded legal service programs have served more than 34,000 households and assisted more than 100,000 New Yorkers.
The number of tenants in Housing Court with legal representation has risen to 27 percent, up from 1 percent in 2013. Evictions by City Marshals have decreased 24 percent, representing more than 20,000 New Yorkers who were able to stay in their homes in 2015.
Universal access will provide free legal representation in court to New Yorkers with household incomes below roughly $50,000 (200 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four), and legal counseling to those earning more. The City estimates 400,000 New Yorkers will be served under the program every year at full implementation.
The expanded tenant protection initiative comes on the heels of Mayoral announcements this past week to boost the creation of affordable housing for lower income seniors, veterans and working families under Housing New York, the plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The Mayor is also pushing in Albany for a Mansion Tax on the sale of luxury homes to fund rental help for more than 25,000 seniors struggling to pay their rent each month.