The Mayor’s Administration and City Council move to create universal access for tenants facing eviction in Housing Court. On February 12, 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito jointly announced that the City government will now fund universal access to legal services for tenants facing eviction in Housing Court. The City will allocate an additional $93 million to this effort—effectively doubling the existing fund for Housing Court legal services. This announcement follows another major financial commitment by the Mayor to deepen the affordability of housing for the City’s lowest-income families and to aid more senior citizens with a new ‘Mansion Tax.’ For CityLand’s coverage of that announcement, click here.
New York City’s Housing Courts generally hear three categories of cases. Non-payment and holdover cases are initiated by landlords and may result in a warrant of eviction issued by the court. Housing part proceedings are initiated by tenants to obtain repairs or correct lease violations by the landlord. More than 200,000 eviction petitions are filed annually in the City, the vast majority of which are for non-payment. Approximately half of those eviction petitions are resolved without eviction warrants. Even in cases where a warrant is issued, many instances are resolved without a physical eviction.
In 2014, the City made a $62 million-a-year commitment for tenant legal services. As a result of this effort, the number of tenants with legal representation in Housing Court rose from one percent to 27 percent.
In 2015 there were 21,988 marshals’ evictions in the City—most occurring in the Bronx and Brooklyn. That number represents an 18 percent drop from 26,857 in 2014 and the lowest number of evictions since 2005. The expanded universal access will provide legal representation in court to resident with household incomes below roughly $50,000 a year. The City estimates this will affect the lives 400,000 New Yorkers every year. The City Council intends to memorialize this financial commitment with forthcoming legislation.
“We are the biggest city in the country to level the playing field between tenants and landlords in housing court. To anyone being forced out of their home or neighborhood, we are fighting for you. This is still your city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Bringing more justice to vulnerable New Yorkers is a hallmark of this City Council,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Since passing landmark legislation in 2015 to create the Office of the Civil Justice Coordinator, the Council has tirelessly worked to figure out how to best provide legal representation to all low-income New Yorkers facing eviction. Today, we’re closer than ever to realizing this goal.”
By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).