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Eviction in New York City Disproportionately Affects Poor, Black and Elderly Tenants Who Lack Lawyer

February 14, 2007

For Immediate Release
February 14, 2007

Susan Lehman, Brennan Center 212–998–6318
Mike Webb, Brennan Center 212–998–6746

NEW YORK, NY—According to a study released today, fewer than 1 out of 4 tenants facing eviction in New York City Housing Court have legal representation when they go before the court. Additionally, the study finds that most people facing eviction have children in the household, that people facing eviction are disproportionately African-Americans, and that many of them are low-income senior citizens.

The study was undertaken by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and ActKnowledge at the Center for Human Environments at the City University of New York Graduate Center. “Our study finds that many low-income seniors face eviction each year with no help from an attorney,” said Laura K. Abel, Deputy Director at the Brennan Center for Justice. “No one wants to think about what happens to little old ladies facing eviction. But for many, an eviction is a crisis because they live on fixed incomes and have incredible difficulty finding new places to live. And when they do, they often end up far from the supportive services on which they rely.

Approximately 5,000 low-income seniors go before the housing court each year with no assistance from an attorney. The researchers found that about twenty percent of seniors facing eviction live with one or more children under 18 and that ten percent of seniors facing eviction are veterans.

Other key findings in the study include:

* 67% of the potential evictees had annual incomes less than $25,000.

* 61% of the total respondents lived with children under the age of 18.

* African-Americans accounted for 49% of tenants facing eviction, while they make up less than 25% of all New York City residents.  Nearly half of the seniors were African-American.

Each year, approximately 160,000 new eviction cases are calendared in the New York City Housing Court. Among public officials who have called for solutions to the eviction-homelessness problem are Mayor Bloomberg, who has called preventing evictions an essential component of “preventing homelessness before it happens,” and the New York City Family Homelessness Special Master Panel, which called for more legal representation to help families avoid eviction.

The New York City Council provided funding for the study, which was overseen by the Brennan Center for Justice and conducted by CUNY. The law firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP provided significant assistance.

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