The most powerful tool in the fight against homelessness is prevention – saving people from the trauma in the first place. Given how devastating it is to lose one’s home and the exorbitant cost of shelters – $38,000 per year for families – eviction prevention is a solution that is both compassionate and cost-effective, as demonstrated by the Coalition’s own very successful Eviction Prevention Program. The de Blasio administration has recently announced that they are committing additional resources to help people remain stably housed.
The unrelenting tide of gentrification in once-affordable neighborhoods has forced more and more New Yorkers from their homes. The percentage of families entering shelter after a formal eviction rose from 17 percent in fiscal year 2002 to 32 percent in fiscal year 2014. Often, landlords will resort to illegal methods and harassment to push out longstanding tenants so they can dramatically increase rent. An estimated 90 percent of tenants appear in housing court without any legal representation, ill-equipped to face the landlords and their attorneys.
To help these tenants remain in their homes, the City has launched a new program to connect people facing eviction with lawyers. The attorneys will identify and challenge illegal evictions, as well as help negotiate payment plans for rental arrears and facilitate applications for rental subsidies.
Erin Durkin covered the announcement for the Daily News:
The city will spend $12.3 million on the new legal services program, bringing total spending to combat eviction and landlord harassment to $60 million, enough to get 113,000 people legal representation.
“There are some (landlords) who take advantage of innocent tenants to try and make more money. It’s as simple as that. And there are strong and clear laws against such harassment, against forced evictions, but so many of our tenants who are in these situations don’t have the legal support they need,” de Blasio said.
“They’re facing a huge challenge without having the kind of backup they deserve.”
City officials estimate that about a third of the people entering homeless shelters show up there after getting evicted from an apartment.