De Blasio, Mark-Viverito Announce Right-to-Counsel Initiative

Tenants facing eviction proceedings in New York City Housing Court will have free universal access to legal services under a new $93 million city allocation recently announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The funding will make New York City the biggest city in the country to offer universal access including free legal advice to all tenants in Housing Court and full legal representation for low-income tenants. The city estimates at least 400,000 people will be served by the program every year when it’s fully implemented.

A $93 million allocation doubles the administration’s existing funding for tenant legal services. The new funds are on top of the city’s unprecedented $62 million-a-year commitment to expand legal services for tenants, which launched in 2014. The new funds will be phased in over the next five fiscal years, starting with $15 million in Fiscal Year 2018, to reach $93 million by 2022. At full implementation, the city’s investment in anti-eviction legal services will total $155 million.

Since January 2014, administration-funded legal service programs have served more than 34,000 households and assisted more than 100,000 New Yorkers. The number of tenants in Housing Court with legal representation has risen to 27 percent, up from 1 percent in 2013. Evictions by City Marshals have decreased 24 percent, representing more than 20,000 New Yorkers who were able to stay in their homes in 2015. Universal access will provide free legal representation in court to New Yorkers with household incomes below roughly $50,000 (200 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four), and legal counseling to those earning more. The city estimates 400,000 New Yorkers will be served under the program every year at full implementation.

The City Council will memorialize the program in legislation.