World March 1, 2016 | 1:03 pm

NCY officials protect tenants, push for affordable housing

New York.—Mayor Bill de Blasiotoday announced the newly created Tenant Support Unit resolved its 1,000thtenant case since it launched in July 2015, keeping tenants in their homes andprotecting affordable housing in fast-changing neighborhoods.

The proactive unit goes door-to-door in neighborhoodsacross the city, informing tenants of their rights, documenting buildingviolations, soliciting complaints related to harassment and eviction, andmaking referrals to free legal support whenever necessary.

The Tenant Support Unit is part of a multi-pronged approachMayor de Blasio has implemented to fight displacement. It includes a ten-foldincrease in free legal services for tenants ­– totaling $62 million – that willbe fully implemented this year. The administration has also pursued anaggressive preservation program, locking more than 26,000 apartments to dateinto long-term affordability agreements that help low-income families stay intheir homes for decades to come.

Evictions by City Marshals have decreased 24 percent sinceMayor de Blasio took office, down from 28,849 in 2013 to 21,988 in 2015.

“When it comes to protecting tenants and affordablehousing, we don’t wait for a 311 call to come in. We have teams knocking ondoors in fast-changing neighborhoods to solve problems then and there. This isa new strategy that’s helping us keep New Yorkers in their homes and fightdisplacement before it happens,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Modeled after the outreach program for Pre-K for All thatsuccessfully enrolled 68,500 children in free, full-day Pre-K, the TenantSupport Unit reaches New Yorkers directly. Since it launched in July 2015,specialists from the unit have knocked on more than 57,000 doors and calledmore than 23,000 tenants, identifying 2,400 New Yorkers that needed help. 1,000of those cases have been resolved so far, and agencies and legal serviceproviders are addressing the remainder.

Key efforts of the Tenant Support Unit:

Know Your Rights: Specialists are trained to educate tenants about their fundamental rights in multiple languages, ensuring tenants are not intimidated or deceived into accepting a buyout offer or illegal surcharges on their legal rent. Securing Repairs: Specialists help tenants document complaints about inadequate heat or hot water, infestations and mold, and work directly with HPD’s Division of Code Enforcement to secure necessary repairs. Referrals to Free Legal Services: When specialists encounter evidence of harassment or illegal eviction, they refer tenants to a City-contracted, free legal service provider who can represent tenants in housing court. More than 500 such referrals have been made so far. Combined with 311 referrals, the City’s augmented legal services have aided more than 10,000 tenants over the past year.“Legal services are an essential part of helping tenantsstay in their homes, reducing homelessness and preserving affordable housing.The City’s free legal services for tenants have already served 10,000households,” said Human Resources Administration Commissioner StevenBanks.

“The multi-pronged anti-harassment strategy the de Blasioadministration has implemented across New York City – which includes the TenantSupport Unit – has been invaluable in helping to protect tenants who are beingpressured by bad-apple landlords seeking to push them out through neglect andother tactics. We congratulate the Tenant Support Unit on this impressive firstmilestone, and their work helping tenants and the City fight property ownerswho are not playing by the rules,” said Housing Preservation andDevelopment Commissioner Vicki Been.

“With fears running high over tenant displacement byunscrupulous landlords, it is great to know northern Manhattan residents, aswell as those across the city, have a dedicated team to back them up,” saidCouncilMember Ydanis Rodriguez. “Less than a full year in and the Tenant SupportUnit is already showing overwhelmingly positive results. The peace of mind for tenants– knowing they have free legal support to fight back, inspectors to keep themsafe in their buildings and a dedicated team fighting to preserve housingaffordability ­– is immeasurable. I urge anyone facing harassment, unsafeliving conditions or eviction to contact the Tenant Support Unit right away.Every hardworking New Yorker deserves affordable housing. The de Blasioadministration is dedicated to this goal, not just through getting this housingbuilt, but by protecting those who already have it.”

“Legal services are vital in combating the evictionepidemic, reducing homelessness and ensuring the voices of vulnerable NewYorkers can be heard,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “New YorkCity has implemented a comprehensive strategy to change the game for tenants,level the playing field and bring crucial support directly to their doors. Icommend Mayor de Blasio and my colleagues for aggressively fightingdisplacement in our neighborhoods so more hard-working New Yorkers can livecomfortably in their homes.”

“The Tenant Support Unit has partnered with my office togreat effect. The initiative’s focus on linking tenants with the legal servicesthey need has been crucial to helping people stay in their homes. I commendMayor de Blasio for his work on this initiative,” said Assembly MemberGuillermo Linares.

“Since 1979, the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporationhas been providing anti-displacement services that are key to keeping familiesand communities intact. NMIC applauds the Mayor’s efforts to support legalservices, and the allocation of additional funds will increase our capacity toprovide much needed eviction prevention services,” said Maria LizardoExecutive Director of the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation.

“As an organization fighting day in and day out forlow-income tenants, we share the Mayor’s goal of preserving affordable housingand stabilizing communities,” said Raun Rasmussen, Executive Directorof Legal Services NYC. “The Tenant Support Unit, which connects New YorkCity tenants to the services available to assist them, has already helpedprevent hundreds of evictions and stabilize communities citywide.”

“Funding for legal services is essential to keepinglow-income New Yorkers in their homes, and increased funding has reducedevictions by 25 percent last year. The Mayor’s leadership on this issue isunprecedented, and The Legal Aid Society is proud to be a critical part of theeffort,” said Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of Civil Practice atThe Legal Aid Society.

“As a community-based organization serving Inwood’shardworking families for over 36 years, we share the Mayor’s vision ofpreserving and increasing affordable housing in the community,” said CharlesCorliss, Executive Director of Inwood Community Services.

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