Training Attorneys to Protect Tenants | The New York Community Trust
April 18, 2019   |   By The New York Community Trust
Training Attorneys to Protect Tenants

CLASS ACTION: Supervising attorneys from several nonprofits learn how to staff and train their legal service teams to represent tenants in court.

A new law ensuring tenants’ right to counsel creates demand for housing attorneys

Amid growing numbers of homeless New Yorkers and the shortage of affordable housing, the City wants to keep people in their homes. So it dramatically increased funding for tenants in housing court by creating the NYC Tenant Right to Counsel Program in 2017. This makes New York the first city in the country to guarantee low-income defendants the right to an attorney when facing eviction.

ATTORNEYS AT SCHOOL: (From left) Munonyedi Clifford of Legal Services NYC, Professor Andrew Scherer, and Ellen Hemley of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and chief consultant of this program.

Until recently, tenants didn’t have this right, and 90 percent represented themselves in court proceedings that too often resulted in families losing their homes and entering the homeless shelter system.

With Trust support, New York Law School will prepare attorneys to supervise this important work. As the new law is phased in over the next three years, the Housing Justice Leadership Institute at the law school will fill a critical need. By 2022, more than 1,000 lawyers will need training in housing law, management, and advocacy against gentrification that displaces low-income families.

Participants hail from several nonprofits, including the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defenders, and Sanctuary for Families. The attorneys “get to take on the challenge of supporting renters in and out of court in ways that tenant advocates have always dreamed of,” says Catherine Barreda, the supervising attorney at Queens Legal Services and one of the program’s first alumni.

This work is going to have so much impact in stopping evictions, pushing policies, and creating partnerships with community organizations.”

—Andrew Scherer, policy director of the Housing Justice Leadership Institute, New York Law School

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