NYC Council Approves Right to Counsel Legislation for Low-Income Tenants

New York City has become the first municipality in the country to pass legislation providing legal counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction or foreclosure in housing court. The bill, sponsored by City Council Member Mark Levine, passed on a 42-3 vote and requires the Office of Civil Justice to create a program that provides legal representation to tenants. Landlords are significantly more likely to have representation in housing court than tenants; the City Council suggests that this bill will help “level the playing field between landlords and their tenants while allowing more New Yorkers to remain in their homes.” This legislation builds on earlier efforts by the city to expand access to legal services: in 2013, less than 1 percent of tenants had representation when facing eviction or foreclosure, compared to 27 percent in 2016. Since initial efforts began to lower evictions in NYC, the number of evictions has dropped nearly a quarter.

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