The City Must Re-Issue RFPs for a TRUE RTC!

We applaud and support our members’ protests of the recent request for proposals (RFPs) released by OCJ related to funding for Right to Counsel and Anti-Harassment and Tenant Protection legal services. The city is once again obfuscating its responsibility to uphold the law and instead asking the Legal Services Providers to do the impossible. At the end of the day the folks who will suffer the most are tenants.

In 2021 we won legislation that tied tenant organizing, education and outreach to Right to Counsel based on the fact that most tenants who have the right don’t know about it and many are threatened with retaliation if they use it. The city committed to release an RFP for community organizing groups and allocated close to $4 million for this work. Last week, the RFP for this finally came out. However instead of being for community groups it was incorporated into a non RTC legal services RFP. This means that legal services organizations would need to re-allocate funds for legal work to community groups and that they would have to do the work of identifying, supervising and subcontracting with community groups across the city.  This not only undermines the spirit of the law but further erodes the resources for tenant protection. It also places the power in the hands of the legal services orgs instead of community groups. It’s a gross injustice to tenants. We are calling on the city to remove this from the legal services contracts and issue a stand alone RFP for community groups.

Additionally the RFP for Right to Counsel reflects a rate that will simply not support the work. By doing this, this city is enshrining a lack of sustainability into the law. While the law needs to be better funded, it’s OCJ’s responsibility to use the funds they have to meet the need and create the infrastructure for a TRUE RTC. Currently more than 30,000 tenants are in court alone and most of them should have RTC. Instead of working to solve this problem, this proposal reflects the administration’s position to undermine the law. We are calling on the city to incorporate all of the legal services providers concerns and issue an RFP that reflects a commitment to the law.

RTC is one of the most powerful laws we have to keep tenants who are targeted for displacement and gentrification, most of whom are Black and brown, in their homes and in this city. It’s outrageous that the city continues to undermine this powerful law to protect tenants.