The Real Deal New York

Why eviction rates are dropping in NYC

City rolled out its Right to Counsel law last year for low-income tenants
November 14, 2018 10:15AM

People waiting outside a Housing Court (Credit: iStock)

Evictions are down, and lawyers for tenants are up in New York City.

The city’s Right to Counsel law, which rolled out last year, has provided tenants with free lawyers in 15 ZIP Codes and will serve 400,000 in 2022, once it is fully implemented, according to WNYC. In the first ZIP codes, 56 percent of tenants now have representation, and evictions have dropped by 27 percent.

The city began a pilot program providing tenants with free lawyers in 2014 and spent $77 million in the last fiscal year on those initiatives and on Right to Counsel.

Advocates are trying to expand the program even further, arguing that the income threshold for free lawyers leaves out too many people, including people making minimum wage. Councilmember Vanessa Gibson and Councilmember Mark Levine have introduced Right to Counsel 2.0, which would provide single tenants making $48,000 a year with a free lawyer.

Alfred Toussaint, a program manager with a Right to Counsel legal service provider, told WNYC that tenants can have a hard time in housing court without a lawyer’s help.

“They tend not to know all the laws and the rights that they have in these particular apartments,” he said. “So they enter into agreements that otherwise they would not have entered into if they knew the defenses that are available to them.” [WNYC] – Eddie Small