Right to Counsel NYC Empowers Tenants in Housing Court, Reported by City Limits

Posted on November 29, 2018

New York Now Has ‘Right to Counsel,’ but Tenant Organizing Still Matters

Originally Published in City Limits on November 27, 2018
Written by Right to Counsel NYC

A year ago, the tenant movement won a hard-fought campaign in New York City to make it the first city in the nation to make eviction defense a right. Tenants decided to launch a campaign because housing court has been weaponized: Evictions are a tool of displacement in targeted investment strategies, and the main deterrent to organizing. Right to counsel stops evictions, but it also creates space to organize and build tenant power to win bigger demands. It moves tenants who are in danger of leaving our city to the center. At its core, it’s about building tenant power in our city.

With RTC, the tenant movement can more boldly organize to address many of the root causes of the housing crisis. We also organize to humanize the people who are evicted, so that they aren’t reduced to numbers. If we are fighting for RTC to build tenant power, then our belief in building tenant power has to be reflected in everything we do. Without organizing, without building the community to confront the fear and isolation many tenants face, many people will choose not to claim their rights, including any right to counsel.

When RTC is a tenant organizing victory, it creates space for folks to see it for what it is—a right that tenants demanded and won— which will hopefully translate into a sense of community power over the right and therefore increase the likelihood that people will claim it. Right to Counsel is a tool to shift power back to tenants and to build the tenant movement. It’s not the only tool, nor will it be a tool that has the same impact everywhere. We hope that it’s one step on the long road to make housing a right.

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