24 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 527 (1991)
Recognizing a Right to Counsel for Indigent Tenants in Eviction Proceedings in New York

handle is hein.journals/collsp24 and id is 537 raw text is: Recognizing a Right to Counsel
for Indigent Tenants in Eviction
Proceedings in New York
KEN KARAS'
I. INTRODUCTION
Each day hundreds of indigent tenants in New York face evic-
tion from their homes through a complex process they do not com-
prehend. While the New York state legislature has passed a variety
of potentially effective statutory defenses against eviction,' most
tenants do not understand these defenses and therefore fail to
make use of them.2 As annual budget crises bring more cuts in
public housing and legal aid subsidization,3 more and more tenants
face the frightening prospect of homelessness.
This Article argues that indigent tenants facing eviction in
New York have a constitutional right to counsel in housing pro-
ceedings. By providing counsel for such tenants, New York's courts
would fulfill their longstanding obligation under the due process
clause of the New York State Constitution' and minimize the dis-
placement of thousands of families from their homes to the
streets.
Section II of this Article outlines the realities of the New York
housing market for low-income tenants. It demonstrates that large
cuts in funding for public housing have drastically reduced vacancy
rates for low-income families and increased public housing rents
* Writing & Research Editor, Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs., 1990-91.
1. See, e.g., N.Y. Emergency Tenant Protection Act §§ 8620-8628 (McKinney 1989);
N.Y. Rent Stabilization Code § 2524 (McKinney 1989); N.Y. State Rent Control Act §§
8580-8585 (McKinney 1989); N.Y. Local Rent Control §§ 8609-8610 (McKinney 1987); N.Y.
Tenant Protection Regulations §§ 2504-2507 (McKinney 1989).
2. See Goodman, Housing Court: The New York Tenant Experience, 17 Urb. L. Ann.
57, 60 (1979).
3. See infra notes 24-34 & 76 and accompanying text.
4. See infra notes 110-18 and accompanying text.
5. See Hopper, More Than A Passing Stranger: Homelessness and Mental Illness in
New York City, 15 Am. Ethnologist 155, 161 (Feb. 1988) (Those on subsistence incomes,
able to carry minimal rent burdens and prey to often illegal efforts to displace them, end up
in the most marginal buildings. From there, it is but a short distance to the streets or
shelters.).

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