Tenants Push for Right to Counsel in Housing Court

About 150 tenants and lawyers gathered on the steps of City Hall to support a bill before the City Council that would give lawyers to all poor people facing eviction, making New York the first city to guarantee attorneys in housing court.

News Story (New York)

Kat Aaron
September 26, 2016

Tags: Housing: Eviction, Justice for All

Organizations mentioned/involved: Urban Justice Center (UJC) (New York City)


The city has invested substantially in providing lawyers for tenants under Mayor Bill de Blasio, increasing the number of publicly-funded tenant lawyers 10-fold over the last two years. Two years ago, just 1 percent of tenants had lawyers in housing court. Now a quarter of tenants have attorneys, according to a study by the city’s Office of Civil Justice.

The mayor has allocated $62 million for tenant legal services this year. But providing lawyers to every poor tenant would cost far more than that: close to $200 million a year, estimated former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. New York City would be the first city in the country to create a guaranteed right to counsel in housing cases.

The push for lawyers comes against a backdrop of rezoning, rising housing costs, a shrinking pool of rent-stabilized housing and a massive homeless population. Speakers from the courts and the city argued that providing lawyers will help keep vulnerable tenants in their homes, protect affordable units and stem the flow into shelters.