Andrew Scherer, Policy Director of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School tells WBAI's The Morning Show about why a right-to-counsel for tenants and homeowners facing Housing Court is so critical. Besides issues of fairness, justice and working towards fixing economic inequality in NYC, an independent study commissioned by the NYC Bar Association found large financial savings for the city especially in the areas of homeless services and affordable housing.
The city could save approximately $300M just in homeless expenditures as some third of all shelter inhabitants are the result of evictions. NYC currently spends $1B on the burgeoning homeless population, but an individual in Housing Court has a 77% chance to avoid eviction with legal representation. 90% of all landlords in Housing Court have legal counsel while 90% of tenants do not; 97% of all eviction cases are initiated by landlords.The report also showed the city could save $250-300M by preserving the existing affordable housing stock.
Scherer emphasized the need for this service especially today in hyper gentrified NYC. While giving credit to the de Blasio administration for increasing the budget for Housing Court counsel--limited to those 15 neighborhoods targeted for rezoning under the Mayor's housing plans--the need is really citywide and much broader. Also, the additional funding doesn't mandate the right-to-counsel, so any future mayor or City Council could defund it. A Council bill creating a right across the board--which has the majority of members support--is currently stalled.
Ultimately, the bill would change the entire dynamic of Housing Court Scherer believes, empowering tenants and possibly dissuading owners from bringing frivolous suits.