Housing Courts Must Change! Campaign Year in Review - Here’s the power we built in 2021!

In 2020, we launched our statewide Housing Courts Must Change! campaign to transform the courts from an “eviction machine” to a place that holds landlords accountable, upholds tenants’ rights, and enables tenants to remain in their homes. Our goals, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, include slowing down eviction cases and expanding Right to Counsel across the state, so ALL tenants have and know about their rights and are emboldened to organize and fight to stop evictions. Throughout the last year we accomplished so much together to reach these goals! As we start the new year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on everything we built in 2021, take inspiration from our wins, and use it to propel us into an even more powerful 2022.  


Launched EvictionFreeNY.org

In response to the eviction crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched the Housing Courts Must Change! campaign. One of our original campaign demands was to pass a universal eviction moratorium. Due to the hard work of the tenant movement to fight for an eviction moratorium, the state passed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Protection Act (CEEFPA) in December 2020, which provides most tenants with temporary eviction protections, if they submit a hardship declaration form. In early 2021, in collaboration with JustFix.nyc and HJ4A, we launched EvictionFreeNY.org, a website that enables tenants to submit their hardship declaration forms online, so more tenants can take advantage of the eviction protections. Since the website launched in February, more than 21,890 tenants across New York State have submitted hardship declarations using EvictionFreeNY.org, protecting themselves from eviction! This tool has also connected thousands to the tenant movement and to our work to end evictions! 

In the news: NY lawmakers urge tenants to complete ‘hardship’ paperwork to delay eviction

Monitored the Eviction Crisis

In March, we released our Eviction Crisis Monitor – a new resource that shows how many tenants landlords are trying to evict in New York State since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Updating automatically every week, the Monitor allows tenants, organizers, and advocates to regularly track how the eviction crisis has worsened during the pandemic. Featured in this article in the New York Times, the Monitor helps us visualize what we already know: In Black and brown neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19, landlords are trying to evict tenants at rates higher than anywhere else, making the case for our demands crystal clear. 

In the news: New York Renters in Covid Hot Spots Are Four Times More Likely to Face EvictionMade Right to Counsel even stronger in NYC!

In April, NYC tenants won a major victory, with the passage of TWO of our bills to expand and strengthen Right to Counsel. And in early May, those bills were signed into law:

  • Local Law 54 sped up full implementation of the Right to Counsel law by more than a year! All income eligible tenants now have Right to Counsel!
  • Local Law 53 made tenant organizing part of Right to Counsel. The City must now contract with tenant organizing groups across NYC, so  tenants know about and can claim their rights. 

We're excited to use these laws to build tenant power across NYC!

In the news: Right to counsel’ bills for tenant protections approved by majority vote in City Council



Launched a campaign to guarantee Right to Counsel for ALL tenants across New York State

In June, we launched our statewide Right to Counsel campaign alongside lead bill sponsors Assembly Member Latoya Joyner and Senator Rachel May. Our state Right to Counsel legislation would ensure that every tenant across NY State has the right to a FREE lawyer when facing an eviction – strengthening Right to Counsel for NYC tenants AND expanding the right to every tenant across NY State! We held two concurrent press conferences, one at Bronx Housing Court and the other at Syracuse Housing Court, where tenants, organizers, and supporters spoke powerfully about the need to pass Right to Counsel statewide! 

In the news: Residents join elected officials to push for passage of Right to Counsel legislation in NY state and State Legislation Aims To Give CNY Tenants Facing Eviction More Leverage In CourtSummer Gathering

In August, organizers, tenants, and attorneys from around NYC came together in the Bronx for a summer party! We celebrated our work, learned about the statewide Right to Counsel legislation, enjoyed food and dancing, and got fired up for the work ahead! 

Read more about the Gathering and ways to build support for statewide Right to Counsel on our blog.



Campaign Planning Retreat

In September, we held a planning retreat to look back on our work over the course of the last year, learn from each other, discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead, build community, and develop our campaign plan for the next six months. During the retreat, we also set our legislative priorities for the new year, which include winning statewide Right to Counsel, Clean Hands, and a ban on evictions during the winter. Folks left the retreat feeling inspired and ready to fight!

Read more about the Housing Courts Must Change! campaign and our goals and demands here.Statewide Right to Counsel Teach-Ins

Starting in October, we began holding Teach-Ins on Right to Counsel across the state. To date, tenants in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Syracuse have come together to talk about what the eviction crisis looks like statewide and in their communities, and to learn about Right to Counsel and how this important legislation can help stop evictions where they live. Some highlights from the Teach-Ins include:

  • The Brooklyn Teach-In, hosted by the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, was attended by more than 100 NEW tenants who were able to learn about our statewide Right to Counsel legislation and ways to get involved with the campaign!
  • Tenants from the Queen’s Teach-In committed to helping fight for statewide Right to Counsel and now regularly come to our Housing Courts Must Change! campaign meetings.
  • Several new tenants who are at risk of eviction joined the Syracuse Teach-In and have already contacted the Syracuse Tenants Union about ways to get involved. 

Check out our website for the Teach-In schedule and more information on statewide Right to Counsel.



Marched to End Winter Evictions

Photo Credit: JustFix.nyc

In December, we gathered in lower Manhattan alongside tenants, clergy, and community groups – including members of the Crown Heights Tenant Union, Flatbush Tenant Coalition, and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) – to speak out against the cruelty and inhumanity of evictions and to demand a permanent end to evictions during the cold winter months, statewide. Over the course of the afternoon, around 100 tenants and supporters joined the march! Read more in our press release

In the news: Protesters march through Lower Manhattan calling for an end to winter evictions.Released the Worst COVID-19 Evictors

Together with our partners at JustFix.nyc and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, we released our new list of the top 20 #WorstEvictors who have threatened the most tenants with eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list features never before seen data based on the number of households sued for eviction, demonstrating how the widespread use of housing courts to threaten and evict tenants by particular landlords is part of what’s driving the eviction crisis. Check out the list here! Like our Eviction Crisis Monitor, this list makes it clear that the eviction crisis is not inevitable – Evictions don’t have to happen. We can choose to prioritize keeping people housed over landlord greed. That is exactly why we need the permanent solutions our campaign calls for to be enacted into law: Right to Counsel for ALL tenants, a ban on winter evictions, and Clean Hands. 

In the news: Queens landlords land on nonprofit’s ‘worst evictors’ list and WBAI Interview on COVID Worst Evictors List

TAKE ACTION: Get involved in the campaign!

We laid the groundwork for a strong campaign in 2021 and are ready to hit the ground running in 2022! What can you do to change housing court and help create an #EvictionFreeNY? 

  • Sign our petition urging the state legislature to pass Right to Counsel for ALL.
  • Come to our Town Hall to learn about the Right to Counsel for ALL legislation, why tenants need it statewide, and how having the RIGHT to a FREE lawyer can help stop evictions. 

In Solidarity,