By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that residential evictions by marshals have decreased by more than 40% since 2013 and just in 2019, declined by 15%. The decrease in 2019 was the largest single-year decrease since the mayor signed the Right to Counsel law in 2017 and launched the city’s Universal Access to Counsel program.
More than 100,000 tenants who might have otherwise faced eviction have been able to stay in their homes since 2013 and residential evictions have been steadily decreasing in every borough.
“If we’re going to save our city, we must do everything we can to help people stay in the homes they love,” de Blasio said. “With evictions down over 40% citywide, the unprecedented investments we’ve made in tenant legal services have helped 100,000 people stay in their homes and off the street.”
More than 350,000 tenants have received assistance in evictions or other housing-related matters during the de Blasio Administration through legal services programs, including Right to Counsel, which provides tenants facing eviction in Housing Court with access to free legal services. More than 84% of tenants that received counsel in cases where they faced eviction were able to keep their apartments.
“Right to Counsel is a landmark law that shows our city’s commitment to supporting tenants and has yielded significant results in reducing evictions,” Councilmember Keith Powers said. “I commend the Mayor and work done in the City Council to provide legal aid for those in need.”
Annual funding for legal services for tenants is expected to increase to $166 million by 2022 and 400,000 New Yorkers facing evictions are expected to receive assistance through the Universal Access initiative. There was a 24% increase in households served in 2019 compared to the previous year and a 74% increase from 2017, before Right to Counsel was formally implemented.
The first phase of the program included increasing access to free legal representation to low-income New Yorkers in 15 zip codes throughout the city that were identified as having high levels of eviction filings, rent-regulated housing and shelter entry. Five additional zip codes each were added during the second and third phases, and additional expansions are expected next year.
The city will also launch a campaign this year to increase awareness about available resources for New Yorkers experiencing housing instability and give them further opportunities to reach out.
“I am thrilled to see the latest results of New York City’s landmark Right to Counsel law,” Councilmember Carlina Rivera said. “These numbers prove what we have always known: when you empower tenants with legal representation in housing court, they have a better chance of winning and staying in their homes.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman cheered the decrease, also attributing the decline to the new rent laws that passed last year.
“In the months after the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 was enacted, New York City experienced an 18% drop in evictions compared to the same period the year before,” Hoylman said. “That’s 2,007 fewer families evicted from their homes after new tenant laws were enacted by the New York State Legislature, where I serve as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the midst of a housing affordability crisis, we need all hands on deck to protect New Yorkers from eviction. That’s why I’m thrilled the de Blasio Administration’s Universal Access to Counsel program helped 105,000 tenants with legal services in 2019 alone.”