- 90% of landlords are represented in Housing Court.
- Only about 10% of tenants are represented in Housing Court.
- 52% of all evictions in Housing Court are for rent regulated tenants.
- 100,000 rent regulated apartments have been de-regulated in the past 10 years in Manhattan only!
- 60,000 people are in our homeless shelters (about 1/3 of the homeless are children) each night in New York City. The largest reason for homelessness is eviction.
- Paying for a family in a shelter is some $38,000/year. Paying for a lawyer in Housing Court is about $2000.
Last evening, Goddard-Riverside hosted a large gathering of tenants and advocates to hear how to address this inhumane, expensive, and unfair system. The bill's creator, Council Member Mark Levine, accompanied by his strong allies and (some of the bill's co-sponsors) Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Public Advocate Letitia James, presented a terrific case for getting this bill passed.
The reason for so many evictions (and attempted evictions) : Landlords can make so much more money from renting UNregulated apartments, it makes economic sense for them to try to oust rent stabilized and rent controlled tenants. That is under a law called "vacancy decontrol" or "vacancy deregulation." If that law were repealed (as proposed under the NY State Assembly Bill 1865a, landlords would lose their motive to harass or buy tenants out.
But even with strong landlord motivation to get tenants out, the landlord lawyers often withdraw their cases as soon as they see the tenants have their own lawyers.
So one way to cope with the existing situation is to level the playing field in Housing Court by ensuring more tenants get lawyers. Right now, Legal Aid and Legal Services are stretched to the limit, their lawyers spending their time finding the most complicated cases and having to leave everyone else unrepresented.
There are 2 approaches here:
1. As Mayor de Blasio has proposed, in (and only in) the areas newly "upzoned" for development, tenants who are being harassed will be represented by Legal Aid and Legal Services lawyers. To that end, the Mayor and City Council are considering an additional $40 million in the City's budget for next year.
2. A RIGHT TO COUNSEL in HOUSING COURT We all know that in criminal proceedings, the defendant - facing a loss of liberty - is entitled to a free lawyer. But loss of a home may have as many terrible consequences.
Several City Council members are proposing that low-income tenants all over the City will have a RIGHT to a lawyer - not just subject to whether NYC currently has a progressive mayor and City Council. This proposal has become City Council Intro 214.
So far, about 38 Council Members have signed on. If all goes well, there will be a Housing Committee hearing about this in the fall, and then perhaps a vote on the bill itself.
But it won't happen unless the Mayor and City Council Speaker and ALL the City Council members who have not yet signed on hear from New Yorkers all over the City.
Here's the contact information. Please share it and let them know we need INTRO 214 passed! (We need a lot more, but this is a crucial start!)
Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker, New York City Council, 212-788-6960, 250 Broadway, $1856, NY, NY 10007
Maria del Carmen Arroyo, 250 Broadway Suite 1768 New York, NY 10007, 212-788-7384,District 17, Bronx
Steven Matteo, 250 Broadway, Suite 1553 New York, NY 10007, 212-788-7159, District 50, Staten Island
Jimmy VanBremer, 250 Broadway, Suite 1833 New York, NY 10007, 212-788-7370, District 26, Queens
For more information, please contact the bill's stalwart originators and supporters: