Nearly 250,000 New Yorkers have free received legal representation through the city’s tenant legal services since the City Council passed The Universal Access to Legal Services Law in 2017, according to a report released on Tuesday.
The Universal Access to Legal Services program provides legal representation or assistance for tenants facing eviction in housing court. The initiative launched in 15 select ZIP codes, and the city now plans to expand it to add five more, including Flatbush’s zip code 11226.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between paying for a lawyer to fight to keep their home and putting food on the table,” said de Blasio. “Our commitment to ensuring low-income New Yorkers facing eviction in housing court have access to legal assistance has already served more than 250,000 New Yorkers and this new expansion to five more zip codes will allow us to reach even more people in need.”
The program kicked off with a focus on 15 zip codes that were identified as experiencing high risks for eviction and loss of affordable housing. In Brooklyn, the following zip codes are included in the program: 11221 in Bushwick/Bed-Stuy, 11216 in Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights; 11225 and 11226 in Flatbush.
The report found that by the end of fiscal year 2018, in the 15 zip codes targeted for legal services, 56 percent of tenants who appeared in housing court to fight eviction were represented by an attorney; citywide, an estimated 34 percent of tenants received legal services for their eviction cases. In comparison: In 2013, only 1 percent of tenants facing eviction in housing court had legal representation.
The report further detailed that city-funded lawyers represented tenants in over 9,000 eviction cases that concluded in fiscal year 2018; 84 percent in those cases the tenants, approximately 22,000 New Yorkers, were able to remain in their homes.
“I am pleased to see that part of my district, zip code 11226, is an area that has been newly added to the program,” said Flatbush Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. “Having to deal with the possibility of eviction from one’s home is stressful enough. Trying to navigate the complex legal system without support should not be an issue that New York residents should have to face.”