City Tackles Roll-Out of Right to Counsel in Housing Court

n February 2017, after years of tenant advocacy, Mayor de Blasio made the announcement that New York City would become the first city in the nation to invest in universal access to counsel for low-income tenants in housing court.

News Story (New York)

Abigail Savitch-Lew
City Limits
January 17, 2018

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel, Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Society (New York City), Mobilization for Justice (New York City), Legal Services NYC (LSNYC), Bronx Defenders


The law requires the city to provide legal representation to all low-income tenants making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($40,840 for a family of three) and who are facing eviction proceedings. It also requires the city to offer brief legal guidance to all tenants regardless of their income.

Prior to the law, the administration had already increased funding for various legal assistance programs targeting tenants facing eviction and harassment from $6 million in 2013 to $62 million in 2016, effectively bringing the rate of representation for tenants from about one percent in 2013 to 27 percent in 2016. The continued expansion includes $77 million in this year’s budget, culminating in an annual investment of $155 million in FY 2022, which is expected to serve 400,000 New York City tenants in need annually. Advocates say the program’s cost will be partly offset by avoided evictions and reduced shelter in-take.