CITY HALL — The city is spending $12 million to expand its anti-eviction programs to provide free legal representation to tenants faced with the prospect of losing their homes, city officials announced Monday.
The initiative is an effort to "stop homelessness before it starts" by protecting families from "unscrupulous landlords" and keeping them in their rent-regulated apartments, said Mayor Bill de Blasio during a press conference at City Hall.
"When we lose a unit of affordable housing, in too many cases, that's forever. It's never coming back," the mayor said.
The effort is in line with another city push to protect tenants from being displaced by profit-seeking landlords in areas that are being rezoned.
This new effort will focus on city neighborhoods where most of the shelter population is coming from, said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks.
Primary neighborhoods include: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and Crown Heights in Brooklyn; Central and West Harlem in Manhattan; Jamaica and South Jamaica in Queens; Tremont and Williamsbridge in The Bronx, and Port Richmond and Mariner's Harbor on Staten Island.
The two programs will cost $46 million this fiscal year and increase to $62 million in fiscal year 2017 where it will help almost 33,000 households per year consisting of 113,000 people.
"At the core of the problem are unscrupulous landlords who are harassing tenants," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams who called for the justice system to treat such landlords the same way "drug lords" are treated.
De Blasio has rolled out several new initiatives to address homelessness after intense focus on the growing numbers of homeless this summer.
Over the course of the past few months, de Blasio downplayed the problem and blamed his predecessor Michael Bloomberg before finally acknowledging that it was an issue.
The city has increased spending on homelessness to $1 billion over the next four years and last week announced a $12 million plan to provide 500 beds for the homeless at faith-based institutions around the city.