Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced new data showing a steady and historic slide in citywide housing evictions, which de Blasio says is the result of his administration's efforts to help low-income tenants and the impact of landmark housing law passed by the city in 2017.
Last year alone, evictions by marshals fell by 15 percent. Since 2013, the start of de Blasio's tenure, evictions by marshals have declined more than 40 percent.
“If we’re going to save our city, we must do everything we can to help people stay in the homes they love,” the mayor said, in a press release. “With evictions down over 40 percent citywide, the unprecedented investments we've made in tenant legal services have helped 100,000 people stay in their homes and off the street."
In another stark statistic, Jackie Bray, the director of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, said that in 2013, 1 in 100 tenants had legal representation. "Today that stands 1 in 3," she said.
The news coincides with Monday's City Council hearing on two new bills sponsored by Councilmembers Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson that would expand the so-called "Right to Counsel" law, a groundbreaking policy which provides low-income tenants facing eviction with free legal representation in housing court.
One bill, known as "Right to Counsel 2.0" would double the income eligibility threshold from 200 percent to 400 percent of the Federal poverty line, which comes out to roughly $25,000 for a single individual and $50,000 for a family of four. The other proposal would require the city to collaborate with community-based organizing groups to educate renters about their rights.
Both bills are expected to pass, with 36 sponsors each to date. Among the supporters has been the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry's lobbying arm. During Monday's hearing, Basha Gerhards, REBNY's vice president for policy and planning, testified that is was "wholly appropriate and laudable for the City Council to level the playing field" against bad landlords.
New York City's right-to-counsel law was the first of its kind in the country and has since been passed in six other cities, including Washington D.C., San Francisco and Newark.
Another report issued on Monday by the Community Service Society showed that evictions in zip codes where the right-to-counsel law has already been rolled out declined by 29 percent, compared to a 16 percent in zip codes with similar eviction, poverty, and rental rates.
The right-to-counsel law is required to be implemented citywide by 2022.
Eviction numbers are being closely followed by housing activists who worked on overhauling the rent laws last summer. Just last month, The Legal Aid Society issued an analysis of city data that showed that evictions in New York City dropped by more than 18 percent following the passage of rent reform in Albany.
Jay Martin, the executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents landlords, was not available to comment on the city's latest data, but earlier this month he told Gothamist that the drop in evictions was only temporary due to confusion over the new rent laws.
He predicted the numbers would rise again in the next six months as more landlords assess their rising costs.