Legal Aid Society, housing advocates calling for more counsel funding
The Legal Aid Society and housing advocates are coming together to demand more funding to help New Yorkers stay in their homes.
Advocates want a city budget increase for the ‘right to counsel’ – which would provide free legal services to qualifying New Yorkers who are facing eviction.
This comes as the rent increase proposed by the city’s Rent Guidelines Board looms over the residents of rent-stabilized apartments. Nakeeb Siddique, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, says that there are about 120,000 eviction cases citywide filed in housing court – and there are concerns that number will rise if increases are approved for the over two million New Yorkers in rent-controlled housing.
“We have a huge tidal wave, or tsunami, of evictions,” said Siddique. “That’s another reason why we are calling on the mayor to fund the Right To Counsel program.”
The program started in 2017 provides free legal services and representation to qualified New Yorkers facing eviction and other rent and housing problems in court.
The Legal Aid Society wants a $351 million investment for that right to counsel in this 2024 proposed city fiscal budget.
Siddique says this city investment would not only help tenants know their rights, but also provide more funding for staffing to handle the ongoing rise in housing court cases.
“Our clients are working folks with two or three jobs… it would allow us to hire staff that we need to not only provide representation, but meaning representation, lawyers, paralegals, social workers, supervisors,” said Siddique.
The Legal Aid Society says that over the last four years, over 84% of tenants who received representation under the right to counsel in housing court were able to stay in their homes.