NYS Tenants Need a Universal Statewide Right to Counsel! RTCNYC Responds to 2022 State of the State

January 5, 2022

“Today, in the 2022 State of the State address, Governor Hochul announced the creation of an ‘Eviction Prevention Legal Assistance Program’ that would provide free legal assistance to upstate renters facing eviction with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. We are encouraged by the Governor’s recognition of the success of NYC’s Right to Counsel legislation. However, the program she announced does not go far enough for NY tenants because it doesn’t establish the universal Right to Counsel ​​that tenants across NYS need, nor does it help downstate tenants in NYC and surrounding areas. Two bills in the Assembly and Senate – A07570A / S06678A establish a RIGHT for all tenants across the state to free legal representation in court cases where tenants' basic human right to a home is at risk. Our NYS Assembly and Senate must pass A07570A / S06678A immediately, and the Governor must sign it into law. That is the only real way to address our state's long standing eviction crisis.

The housing and eviction crisis ravaged NY communities long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. COVID-19 made the eviction crisis more visible and forced us to contend with it. To meet the needs of tenants across NYS, it’s crucial that we establish a permanent RIGHT to counsel for ALL NY tenants. Cities across the country have shown that establishing a Right to Counsel without income limits is not only possible and effective but just. A program for just some tenants cannot stop the eviction crisis nor does it catalyze a shift in the power relationship between landlords and tenants, in and outside housing court. Establishing the Right to Counsel does just that – when all tenants have the RIGHT to a lawyer, it reaffirms that tenants are worthy of representation, to know their rights, to be respected, and that the government will guarantee their legal defense. And it works. In NYC, evictions are down and landlords are suing tenants less, precisely because tenants have a right, not a program. For these reasons and more, we must pass A07570A / S06678A and establish a Right to Counsel for ALL New Yorkers. And we look forward to working with the Governor and State Legislature to get it done.”