Evictions are down to their lowest rate in a decade after two years of increased funding for free tenant attorneys, according to the tenant rights group Housing Court Answers [pdf]. Last year, 21,988 households were evicted, down from 26,857 the years prior, and close to the 21,945 of 2005. That's still 60 evictions a day, but it is substantially lower than the 28,849 in 2013, Michael Bloomberg's last year in office.

The change follows the city committing $46 million to tenant legal services, providing lawyers to some but not nearly all tenants coming through housing court.

"The money the city put in for lawyers is working," Judge Fern Fisher told the New York Times.

Mayor de Blasio has made rental vouchers, emergency rent subsidies for tenants at risk of eviction, and attorneys to combat tenant harassment cornerstones of his efforts to staunch the flow of New Yorkers into homelessness.

"Some combination of things is working," de Blasio told reporters at a press conference yesterday.

For some background, 42 percent of New York renters are considered "rent-burdened," meaning they put more than 30 percent of their income towards rent [pdf]. Of those, half are "severely rent-burdened," paying more than half of their income. Landlord attorneys typically bring eviction cases over alleged nonpayment, and tenants, who may be withholding rent because of exploding electrical sockets or roach infestations, or whose rent checks the management company may not be cashing, face an uphill battle in trying to advocate for themselves, as people in civil court do not have the right to an attorney. This can push the full financial burden of housing the at-risk families onto city taxpayers, whose homeless shelters are at a record population of nearly 60,000.

As the New Yorker wrote recently in its wide-angle look at eviction:

When tenants have legal representation, their chances of keeping their homes increase dramatically. A program that ran in the South Bronx from 2005 to 2008, for example, provided legal assistance to more than thirteen hundred families and prevented eviction in more than eighty-five per cent of the cases, saving New York City hundreds of thousands of dollars in estimated shelter costs.

Several legal services organizations provide free legal help to tenants, and they've been able to dramatically up their headcount with the mayor's additional funding. A Legal Services NYC manager said that his organization alone has added 90 housing staffers since de Blasio took office, most of them attorneys. The lawyers are able to help develop back rent payment plans, dispute overcharges, and fight back in instances of neglected maintenance and harassment.

A lawyer for the rent-stabilized landlord lobbying group the Rent Stabilization Association claimed that eviction is not the goal of filing eviction papers, getting paid rent money is. The lawyer, Mitchell Posilikin, told the Times that the decrease in evictions is "only a movement in the right direction if it means that owners are receiving the rent they need to operate their buildings."