Dear Governor Hochul, Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins:
We write to urge you to prioritize Statewide Right to Counsel legislation (Joyner-A1493/ May-S2721) and to work with tenants, advocates, legal services providers, and faith leaders in the Right to Counsel Coalition to ensure passage of this bill into law in the FY 2024 budget.
Collectively, we represent congregations and faith based organizations across New York State. Everyday, we have seen the people we serve struggle to stay in their homes. So many people were put in an economically precarious position because of the pandemic, and there are now over 270,000 New Yorkers facing active eviction across the state. Meanwhile, nearly all landlords have lawyers in eviction cases, while most tenants do not. This creates a power imbalance in the courts that favors landlords. Without representation, tenants face severe barriers to staying safe and secure in their homes, maintaining their mental and physical health, ensuring their children can stay in school and remaining in New York State.
We are honored to be working on permanent and transformative solutions to this devastating eviction and displacement crisis. Statewide Right to Counsel legislation would ensure that every tenant in New York State has the right to a lawyer when facing an eviction and:
Covers every tenant across the state, regardless of income.
Covers any legal proceeding that could result in a tenant losing their home.
Requires that tenants be represented throughout their entire case, not just when they show up in court. This includes legal advice, advocacy, and assistance.
Requires the State to contract with non-profit legal services organizations to provide Right to Counsel and with non-profit community based organizations to provide tenants’ rights education and tenant organizing.
New York State’s eviction crisis will only get worse if we don’t enact permanent solutions that strengthen tenants’ rights and empower tenants to fight for their homes. Passing statewide Right to Counsel would do just that. Right to Counsel is proven to prevent displacement – 84 percent of tenants in New York City who had a Right to Counsel lawyer won their case and the seven U.S. cities that passed Right to Counsel as of 2021 have seen up to a 77 percent reduction in evictions. We also know that keeping people in their homes is vastly less expensive than the state having to pick up care for people who become homeless. In fact, Statewide Right to Counsel will save our state an estimated $3-6 for every dollar invested!
We urge you to ensure this legislation is prioritized in the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget. Please contact Katy Lasell ([email protected]), Campaign Organizer, with any questions you may have. We look forward to your response and are excited to work with you to get this done.