LAS Hails Success of City's Right to Counsel Program

A newly released report highlights the success of New York City’s Right to Counsel program, which provides free legal services to tenants facing eviction in housing court. In 2020, 71% of tenants had full representation in housing matters, nearly double the pre-pandemic rate, as reported by Harlem World.

The program, the first of its kind in the country, offers a national model for tenant protection. As the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn have severely impacted the lives of low-income individuals, legal representation in housing matters is more critical than ever. Attorneys with The Legal Aid Society’s housing practice have been on the front lines defending these vulnerable New Yorkers.

“The Legal Aid Society is proud to be a leader in New York’s historic right to counsel program, which has protected housing for tens of thousands of New Yorkers and serves as a nationwide model,” said Adrienne Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Access to counsel in housing court is not only a requirement of civil rights and due process but also a key tool to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic.”

“The program has served as a buffer that has allowed the New Yorkers most impacted by COVID-19, often people of color, to avoid displacement and the attendant risk of serious illness or death,” she continued. “With the support of the Office of Civil Justice, we have been fighting harassment, neglect, and illegal lockouts, which all have the life-or-death consequence of displacement during a pandemic.”