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RTCNYC and TakeRoot Justice conducted a participatory action research project to investigate the impact of Right to Counsel on tenant organizing among low-income tenants. We conducted focus groups with tenants and with housing organizers. Utilizing a participatory action research model, tenants and organizers participated in the development of research instruments, were trained to administer the research, facilitated focus groups, and engaged in opportunities for skill-building and leadership development.Our research shows:* Right to Counsel strengthens organizing in a variety of ways. It serves as a know-your-rights tool, helps build a base of involved tenants, and opens the door to new organizing tactics and strategies.* Tenants feel less stress and fear knowing they have the right to legal representation in court, which helps them navigate housing court with confidence and success and prompts them to take action against their landlords.* Right to Counsel creates opportunities for tenants, organizers, and attorneys to navigate relationships, share knowledge and history and provide trainings, all in the service of building the tenants' rights movement.* The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition is deliberate and successful in creating and sustaining a tenant-led infrastructure and movement-building spaces.These findings demonstrate the various ways in which the Right to Counsel meaningfully contributes to New York City's robust tenant movement. These findings also offer insight and inspiration for tenants and organizers fighting for the Right to Counsel in their cities.
VOCAL-NY partnered with TakeRoot Justice to conduct a participatory action research project to document the experience of looking for housing with subsidies. The findings derive primarily from matched pair testing: the representatives of 114 apartment listings advertised on Zillow and Trulia were contacted by researchers. Each representative was contacted by someone presenting as having a housing subsidy as well as by someone presenting with income from employment. The outcomes of the outreach were then compared to evaluate differences in treatment. In addition to matched pair testing, we also called the Brooklyn-based property management companies and apartment buildings listed on a resource list provided by the New York City Human Resources Administration to evaluate the usefulness of that list.This research was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City and our communities. Stable housing has always been a public health issue, and the pandemic has brought that issue into great relief, as the City has struggled to meet basic safety standards for homeless New Yorkers. As more New Yorkers find themselves in need of support and safety nets to survive the economic fallout of the pandemic, housing must be more accessible to subsidy holders. The findings from our research are more salient than ever. As housing insecurity grows throughout the city, more protections need to be in place for tenants who rely on subsidies to pay their rent.
Modern mass homelessness in New York is now entering its fifth decade. New York's catastrophic affordable housing crisis continues to fuel record homelessness throughout the city and state, devastating the lives of tens of thousands of men, women, and children. The number of single adults sleeping each night in New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters increased by a staggering 143 percent, from 7,700 in December 2009 to 18,700 in December 2019. While the number of families sleeping each night in DHS shelters has levelled off in the past three years, that figure remains stubbornly high: In December 2019, 14,792 families slept in shelters each night, a 7-percent decline from the all-time high of 15,899 in November 2016, but a 46-percent increase compared with December 2009. Shockingly, 1 in every 100 babies born in New York City last year was brought "home" from the hospital to a shelter.As disturbing as these statistics are, they constitute just the tip of the iceberg. The depth of the crisis goes far beyond what is reflected in nightly shelter census figures. State of the Homeless 2020 analyzes the institutional forces that drive record homelessness, highlights the plight of those sleeping unsheltered on the streets and in the subways, and illustrates how the City's bureaucratic shelter application process for homeless families may actually conceal the true scope of family homelessness in New York.
The Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, known for its unique mix of industrial, artistic, and commercial activity is poised for significant changes driven by public actions and planned neighborhood investment. The polluted Gowanus Canal, designated as a Superfund site1in 2010 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is in the process of being cleaned up. The responsible parties, which include the City of New York and National Grid, are required to contribute to remediation costs currently estimated at $1.257 billion.Despite this public housing crisis, the City has not meaningfully linked its Housing New York and NYCHA Next Generation strategies to preserve public housing as part of the Gowanus rezoning. By excluding Gowanus NYCHA developments from the rezoning boundary, the City prevents NYCHA from directly benefiting from the land use action and therefore risks exacerbating the existing inequalities between residents of public housing and the community's wealthier and white neighbors.The City is missing an opportunity to address the public housing crisis that deserves its full attention, especially given NYCHA's extensive capital needs and the amount of property value being created through the City's land use actions. In New York, when regulatory actions such as zoning changes increase land values, landowners or speculative investors disproportionately reap the benefits. Property values increase, rewarding landowners while soaring rents often displace longstanding businesses and existing residents.
This report is the product of a year-long investigation by Picture the Homeless's research committee into the fiscal policies and priorities that influence the lives of homeless New Yorkers. As the city's homeless shelter census has grown to a record high of over 60,000 people, the city has also seen its spending on shelter increase to an all-time high of over $1.8 billion, with an additional $650 million in capital funding allocated to upgrade and expand the shelter system in the next 10 years. By failing to create new units... the city is ensuring that shelter entry will continue at pace for the foreseeable future.
The history of housing programs throughout the United States, including New York City, is a history of racial segregation and substandard housing for the poor and marginalized. Despite a stated commitment to the development of affordable housing units to serve New York City's desperate housing needs, Mayor Bill de Blasio's housing plan has created a minimal number of units that are truly affordable for New York's low-income residents while continuing to subsidize developments that exacerbate the legacy of segregation. A real plan to address New York's housing crisis will require the development of truly affordable units, priced according to local community needs and tied to robust and enforceable community benefits agreements. This report outlines the current crisis and the shortcomings of the Mayor's plan to address it, focusing on the ways in which the proposed development in the Broadway Triangle—at the intersection of BedStuy, Bushwick, and Williamsburg—exemplifies the problem. The project proposed by the Rabsky Group offers fewer than three hundred nominally affordable units, many of which will be too expensive for the community's Black and Latino residents, while stimulating a wave of high-income demand likely to accelerate displacement. We demand that the City Council either reject the proposed development or demand the kinds of modifications that will ensure the project serves the community.
CASA is proud to present our new white paper, Resisting Displacement: Lessons from CASA's Tenant Organizing in the Southwest Bronx!In the last year, CASA has organized or provided technical assistance to over 90 buildings, which are home to more than 7,000 families. In the last year alone, over 4,000 tenants have actively engaged in CASA's work. Our new white paper shares lessons in tenant organizing, explores the forces of displacement that we are up against, and solutions for fighting displacement in the context of an impending rezoning.This is a critical moment for the Southwest Bronx. A potential rezoning is imminent, and could have devastating impacts on low-income tenants of color, their communities, and the state of affordable housing. CASA has drawn on our organizing experience, coalition work, previous research and the experiences of the tenants we work with to draft this white paper.In the report we:Present a clear and accurate definition of displacement and counter the false assertion that most tenants leave neighborhoods by choice;Explain the tactics that landlords already use to exert displacement pressures on low-income tenants of color;Emphasize the risk of increased displacement posed by rezoning, and in particular the Jerome Avenue rezoning, when new housing is not genuinely affordable and there are insufficient protections against displacement;Offer solutions that would protect tenants from displacement, allow them to remain in their homes, and preserve their communities.
In May of 2014, the Mayor's Housing Plan was released, laying out the goal to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years. Central to the success of the plan is the rezoning of 15 neighborhoods in order to facilitate the construction of new residential housing. In September of 2014, we learned that 73 blocks along Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, from 167th to 183rd streets, were being studied by the City to see how the current regulations of the mostly industrial and commercially zoned land could be changed to allow for the building of residential housing.
No Access: The Need for Improved Language Assistance Services for Limited English Proficient Asian Tenants of the New York City Housing AuthoritySeptember 15, 2015
More than 400,000 New Yorkers live in public housing developments run by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).1 For them, NYCHA is property manager, landlord and super. NYCHA systems and staff are the points of interface for repair issues, rental payments, emergency information and more. For NYCHA tenants with limited proficiency in English, navigating the policies, procedures and paperwork associated with their housing can be fraught with challenges. Issues of language access have serious implications. Tenants whose rents are raised incorrectly may be taken to housing court for non-payment of rent because they were not able to communicate with NYCHA to resolve the error. Tenants may be forced to miss work because they have to schedule repeated meetings in an attempt to communicate their needs. Victims of domestic violence who are in need of emergency housing transfers may not be able to make that need known. The safety of tenants' apartments can be jeopardized by a lack of language access in the repairs process. Crucial housing information, such as emergency protocols, may not reach tenants because they are not translated. Lack of language access impacts the day-to-day experience of tenants in interaction with NYCHA staff and their ability to participate meaningfully in the NYCHA community, perpetuating isolation.
Stand For Tenant Safety: Summary of Data to Document Construction as Harassment in Rent Stabilized Buildings and the STS Legislative SolutionSeptember 1, 2015
The survey aims to document how major construction has impacted the health and well-being of tenants in rent-stabilized apartments in New York City and to explore the extent to which such construction constitutes tenant harassment. The survey and supplemental secondary data from the Department of Buildings also aims to better understand how effectively the Department of Building's inspection units address problems with construction when they are reported by tenants. The DOB data also documents the degree to which the DOB fines landlords that violate rules and regulations, and the status of collecting those fines.
Housing Justice: What the Experts are Saying on New Yorkers' Right to Counsel in Eviction ProceedingsMay 1, 2015
There is growing momentum for establishing a right to counsel in New York City for low-income people who face losing their homes in legal proceedings. The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition formed in 2014 to advocate for the right to counsel and its ranks have been steadily growing. New York City's political leadership has been outspoken on the importance of counsel in eviction proceedings and is taking major concrete steps to expand the availability of counsel. These include greatly increased funding for civil legal services and the City Council's passage, on May 27, 2015, of Intro 736, which establishes a first-ever Office of the Civil Justice Coordinator. Most importantly, the New York City Council and the de Blasio Administration are considering legislation that would make New York City the first jurisdiction in the United States to establish a right to counsel for low income people who face losing their homes in legal proceedings. The legislation, Intro 214, introduced by Councilmembers Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson and co-sponsored by a wide majority of the members of the Council, would (with anticipated amendments) guarantee counsel to households below 200% of federal poverty guidelines in both eviction and foreclosure proceedings.
Rent-stabilized tenants in New York City are in jeopardy. Despite laws meant to protect tenants from high rents, landlords use a variety of tactics to seek additional profit and to harass tenants out of their homes. One widespread tactic is the use of non-rent fees. In September of 2013, a report by CASA-New Settlement and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, The Burden of Fees: How Affordable Housing is Made Unaffordable, demonstrated the extent to which non-rent fees increased the rent burdens of rent-stabilized tenants in housing owned by one landlord, Chestnut Holdings, in the Bronx. These fees often appeared on tenants' bills with little or no explanation, and tenants, who felt harassed or threatened, frequently paid the fees to Chestnut Holdings, even though they had a right to refuse to do so. The report also noted that the consistency and pattern of fees suggested that fees were used as a tactic to increase the financial burden on low-income tenants and contributed to pushing tenants out of their homes.
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