For Tenants Facing Eviction, New York May Guarantee a Lawyer

On Monday, the City Council held a hearing on a bill that would make New York City the first jurisdiction in the country to guarantee lawyers for any low-income residents facing eviction.

News Story (New York)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg
New York Times (NYT)
September 26, 2016

Tags: Housing: Eviction, Justice for All

Organizations mentioned/involved: Urban Justice Center (UJC) (New York City), Legal Aid Society (New York City)


It is gaining traction in New York as the city grapples with an affordable housing crisis. The total stock of affordable housing is dwindling, according to many measures, while costs are rising. From 2000 to 2012, the number of apartments renting for $1,000 or less dropped by 400,000, according to an analysis by the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer.

“People are literally falling off a cliff fighting for necessities without a lawyer,” said Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, who has long argued that the poor should have a right to counsel in civil cases. “The playing field is uneven, lopsided because the tenant has no idea how to navigate the system.”

The bill has brought together a broad coalition that includes labor unions and the New York City Bar Association, as well as traditional tenant rights advocates. On the steps of City Hall on Monday, elected officials, including borough presidents from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan, the city comptroller and the public advocate, gathered to register their support for the bill. A large crowd of tenants who turned out waved signs and chanted “legal aid.”