Since its launch in 2015, the Tenant Support Unit has helped 14,000 New Yorkers fight harassment and eviction
The Tenant Support Unit (TSU), a special unit launched in July 2015 to protect tenants from eviction and harassment, is receiving $1 million in additional funding to build a dedicated 15-person team to notify low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court of a new city law that provides universal access to legal representation. Mayor Bill de Blasio stated in an announcement on Tuesday, that since its launch, the unit has resolved 4,500 cases, helping more than 14,000 tenants to stay in their homes by getting health and safety code violations corrected, and connecting tenants facing eviction and harassment to legal services groups.
“The Tenant Support Unit is an important tool in our efforts to end the cycle of eviction and homelessness. This is more than a $1 million investment in free legal services; it’s an investment in our communities, our families, and our children,” said Councilmember Vanessa L. Gibson.
The TSU team will work directly with the city’s Human Resource Administration’s Office of Civil Justice to direct data-driven outreach to tenants who are facing eviction cases in court. TSU specialists proactively go door-to-door informing tenants of their rights, documenting and case managing tenant issues related to harassment, repairs and eviction, and making referrals to legal support whenever necessary. The newly allocated funds will also go to launch a multilingual paid ad campaign in ten neighborhoods, including Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, to ensure tenants are aware of their new right.
In total, the city will spend $155 million annually to cover the costs of the initiative. Beginning this month, the program started providing legal services to NYCHA tenants in administrative proceedings to terminate their tenancy. There are approximately 3,200 cases that go through NYCHA administrative hearings annually.
“We want to keep tenants in their homes. The Tenant Support Unit is knocking on doors in New York’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods to make sure tenants are aware of their legal rights and get the services they need,” said de Blasio. “Make no mistake about it, as we build and protect 200,000 affordable homes across this city, we are also confronting landlords who ignore their duty to provide safe homes.”
The program successfully increased tenant representation in housing court to 27% in 2016, and has provided more than 50,000 households with legal services since 2014. At the same time, residential evictions by marshals declined by 24 percent, allowing 40,000 people to remain in their homes during 2015 and 2016.