Writes Franzese, “A tenant faced with the prospect of eviction and without the effective assistance of counsel is at a particular disadvantage. Without the requisite expertise needed to navigate the intricacies of housing court, she is apt find herself lost, confused and summarily disposed, the aims of fairness and justice are frustrated when, with the peril of eviction hanging in the balance, approximately ninety percent of landlords do have legal counsel while ninety percent of tenants do not.”
Franzese makes the connection between eviction and homelessness, “There are catastrophic personal and societal consequences of housing displacement and homelessness.”
The City of Newark is planning to introduce an ordinance – a “game changer” – which would guarantee a free attorney to every low-income tenant facing eviction. The article reports that 78% of Newark’s residents are renters.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka made the announcement and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attended the announcement. The legal assistance will be targeted towards tenant households facing eviction whose income is 200% or less than the federal poverty level.
“There’s a lot more work that we have to do to mitigate the kind of problems you get when you become successful in the downtown area in terms of development and opportunity for your city,” Baraka said. “We’re going to start off immediately dealing with folks that are disabled, our seniors and our undocumented immediately for the first year.”
Baraka said about 10,000 people who are seniors, disabled or undocumented immigrants will be eligible in the first year of the program. Access to legal representation would be phased in over a three to five-year period, he said.”
“Every day I have countless of people in my office asking me for help,” said Jay Lee, director of rent control for Newark. “This is a crisis.”
“Lee said nine out of 10 tenants in Newark facing eviction don’t have an attorney. Housing advocates say in 2016, there were 40,000 eviction cases filed in landlord-tenant court in Essex County that involved about 25 percent of the total rental units that Essex County has.”