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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.
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.
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