The de Blasio administration recently announced that in the citywide implementation of the Right to Counsel program in 2020, 100% of tenants with calendared eviction cases had access to legal services, and 71% of tenants who appeared in Housing Court had full representation by attorneys – nearly double the pre-pandemic rate of 38%, and an exponential increase over the 1% of tenants who had lawyers in 2013.
To date since 2014, the city has provided legal services to more than 500,000 New Yorkers, including approximately 100,000 New Yorkers who utilized this program during the COVID-19 pandemic period in Fiscal Year 2021. To educate New Yorkers about housing instability, raise awareness of Right to Counsel and promote the availability of these anti-eviction resources for tenants, which have achieved proven positive results, the city is also launching a public awareness campaign.
“Building the fairest big city in the country means making sure all tenants can continue to call New York City home,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This game-changing program has yielded staggering results – protecting families from harassment and providing legal services to all tenants facing eviction, cementing its status as a national model for increasing housing stability and preventing homelessness.”
Increased investments expand proven-successful anti-eviction program citywide – ahead of schedule
Established in 2017, New York City’s Right to Counsel initiative provides free legal services, including representation, to tenants facing eviction in housing court. The data shows that the overwhelming majority of tenants who have city-funded legal representation are successful in their legal proceedings, with 84% of households represented by a Right to Counsel lawyer able to remain in their homes.
Through this initiative, the administration has increased investments in tenant legal services more than 25-fold, from $6 million in 2013 to $166 million today, and expanded the program citywide, making eviction legal defense services available to all tenants in New York City facing eviction in housing court, regardless of ZIP Code. This citywide expansion was achieved ahead of the planned 2022 expansion schedule – and during an historic emergency period in New York City.
“The tremendous progress we’ve made implementing the Right to Counsel initiative demonstrates this Administration’s commitment to strengthening tenant protections for New Yorkers like never before,” said Human Resources Administration Administrator Gary Jenkins. “Through creative approaches and new solutions like the RTC program, which has become a model nationwide, we are continuing to build on the progress we’ve made helping vulnerable New Yorkers who are our neighbors, fight unlawful evictions, keep their homes, and avoid homelessness altogether, both before and during the pandemic. As our City works to put the pandemic behind us, this essential resource will continue to protect tenants for years to come, helping ensure New York remains a city that anyone can call home, regardless of their economic status.”
New campaign will raise awareness and connect more New Yorkers to anti-eviction legal services
To increase awareness of the Right to Counsel program and its expansion citywide, and to educate New Yorkers experiencing housing instability about the range of resources available to them via the Tenant Helpline, the city is implementing a large-scale Right to Counsel advertising campaign. The campaign will focus on messaging that lets New Yorkers facing eviction know that they are not alone and they can learn more about Right to Counsel by calling 311. Developed collaboratively by the Public Engagement Unit (PEU), the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants (MOPT) and DSS-HRA’s Office of Civil Justice (OCJ), the campaign will be available in 15 languages and will be comprised of targeted advertisements in multiple languages in both print and digital media, including Community and Ethnic Media publications across the five boroughs.
“The Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants is proud to support such a markedly successful program as Right to Counsel, and it’s important to us that as many New Yorkers as possible know the program exists and how to access it,” said Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants Acting Director Ricardo Martinez Campos. “I believe this public education campaign will successfully reach the New Yorkers who need the City’s support in fighting eviction. Right to Counsel keeps people in their homes. We are confident that this landmark program will continue to protect New York City tenants even if the State’s eviction moratorium expires in January.”
Permanent Tenant Helpline within the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit to help New Yorkers navigate available resources
The new Right to Counsel advertising campaign will drive tenants in need of assistance to the Tenant Helpline, which was created in 2020 by the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants and the Public Engagement Unit (PEU), with the aim of making sure New Yorkers had access to all the information that could help them stay stably housed. New Yorkers who call 311 and ask for “Right to Counsel” will be directed to the Tenant Helpline, staffed by PEU Housing Specialists who identify a caller’s needs, connect them to a wide array of resources (including OCJ’s legal services and our community partners), and provide hands-on case management support for complex cases. The Tenant Helpline will now become a permanent team within PEU.
The Tenant Helpline is an addition to the city’s array of tools to help prevent evictions and tenant harassment, and it complements PEU’s proactive outreach to tenants in housing court and in rent regulated apartments in fast-changing neighborhoods. PEU conducts proactive outreach through canvassing, phone, and text campaigns to provide tenants with information on their rights, assist with securing repairs, and/or make connections to OCJ’s free legal services that can help tenants facing eviction as well as harassment by unscrupulous landlords or other tenant legal needs.
“I want New Yorkers across all five boroughs to know: You do not have to face eviction alone,” said Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit Director Adrienne Lever. “You have unprecedented access to tenant support, and the Public Engagement Unit is here for you. Your city is here for you. PEU Specialists are comprehensively trained and passionate about providing New Yorkers with the one-on-one support they need to stay in their homes. I am thrilled that the success of our Specialists on the Tenant Helpline has helped it to become a permanent fixture of the City’s tenant support infrastructure, and that our new Right to Counsel campaign will help ensure New Yorker know about this resource and their rights”