Grassroots tenant organizers & advocates are celebrating a major win as the New York City Council voted to establish Right to Counsel — the first legislation in the U.S. which will require universal legal services for tenants facing eviction.
Right to Counsel, also known as Intro 214-B, will officially require the Office of Civil Justice Coordinator to establish programs to provide all tenants facing eviction with access to legal services within five years. Low-income individuals with eviction cases in housing court will have full legal representation, while other tenants will receive brief legal assistance.
“Having a lawyer in Housing Court was the difference between winning my case and living in a shelter”, said 60 year-old, Randy Dillard, a Southwest Bronx resident and single father of five.Dillard is a member of the Right to Counsel Coalition, a group of advocates and organizers who have taken up the decades-long fight for legal representation in housing court. The Coalition members include CASA, Housing Court Answers, Legal Services-NYC, Catholic Migration Services and AARP to name a few.
“Less than 10 percent of tenants in housing court have lawyers to represent them,” said Flatbush Tenant Coalition leader, Marie Laroche, in a video for the Right to Counsel campaign. “In 2013, 28,849 [tenants] were evicted by a Marshall,” Laroche added.
Sponsored by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa L. Gibson, Intro 214-B passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 42-3-1. Find out more about the Right to Counsel grassroots movement by visiting the Coalition’s website:righttocounselnyc.org.