FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tenants Rally To Protect Funding Aimed At Fighting Landlord Harassment
CITY HALL, MANHATTAN – November 17, 2021. Dozens of organizations, tenants and elected officials rallied in front of City Hall today in support of the campaign to save neighborhood legal services. The City’s incredibly successful Anti-Harassment Tenant Protection Program (AHTP) has served over 16,000 families the past seven years and has yet to be renewed by the City’s Human Resource Administration (HRA) for next fiscal year. NYC’s AHTP is a crucial program that protects thousands of low-income tenants, largely from communities of color, across NYC against landlord harassment, discrimination, and displacement.
With no guarantee that their vital legal services would continue past June 2022, tenants and community leaders took to City Hall to fight for renewal of the AHTP program. Tenants and elected leaders urged City Hall and HRA to make AHTP a priority in next year’s budget and preserve their tenant legal services.
When it began seven years ago, the AHTP program was seen as a major victory for tenant organizing community based organizations. Through the AHTP program, the LEAP coalition and Communities Resist have served more than 16,000 tenants and families, including over 2,200 from Communities Resist. This includes nearly 4,000 tenant-initiated cases in housing, state, and federal court to combat harassment and demand repairs.
The value of the AHTP program is it’s focus on providing representation for groups of tenants who sue the landlord for repairs, harassment, discrimination, and negligence. It is also the only program that supports tenant organizing specifically for the formation of tenant associations to file legal action against predatory landlords. These affirmative cases are an effective legal remedy for tenant justice and the AHTP program is the only grant to fund this specific work. From a community standpoint, this legal intervention can prevent buildings and neighborhoods from falling into deplorable conditions and serves to combat illegal landlord harassment and evictions.
Tenant harassment has significantly increased since the beginning of the pandemic. The moratorium on evictions and court closures has emboldened bad landlords who now resort to grossly illegal tactics to force tenants from their homes. The need for comprehensive organizing-based legal representation as a preventative measure to keep tenants in a home that is safe and habitable is dire. The City invests $9.8 million in annual funding to this program – crucial funding which, if cut, would leave countless tenants without representation during a housing crisis and a historic global pandemic. Now, with the future of the AHTP program uncertain, tenant leaders and community organizations are rallying in support of it’s continued renewal.
“Los Sures has a long history of partnering with attorneys who understand the value and power of working with groups of tenants. This has been essential to saving buildings in our neighborhood – Southside Williamsburg in Brooklyn. With the help of attorneys from Communities Resist, tenant associations assert their rights to safe, affordable housing by bringing affirmative cases for repairs and improvements, thus preserving their housing and preventing displacement. Losing these attorneys would be a disaster!” added Barbara Schliff, Tenant Organizing Director, Southside United HDFC – Los Sures
“Since COVID-19 has hit New York, it is yet again the low-income communities of color and immigrant and undocumented families who have been hit the hardest. In this most vulnerable state, our clients are now facing a stark increase in landlord harassment, inhumane neglect, discrimination, and fear of displacement. It is now when our tenants across NYC need organizers and legal representation to help them fight against abusive landlords after years and generations of struggling alone. This funding needs to be renewed now. We need to provide some comfort for our struggling communities and we can only do this with the City’s support.” said Lina Lee, Executive Director of Communities Resist
“Having one single attorney to represent us as a tenant association made us stronger. We imagine that if we hadn’t had just one attorney representing us all together, and everyone was on their own, we would never have won anything and we would still be living with the bad conditions we had like rats, leaks and no heat.” – says the 293-301 Hooper Tenant Association from Brooklyn, which represents 35 low-income, immigrant families who saved their homes and succeeded in getting necessary renovations through the filing of multiple group HPs and 7As, as well as Rent-Strikes. Without group representation the conditions in this building were likely to have displaced many of these low-income immigrant families.
“The housing crisis in NYC is urgent. Especially because of this pandemic, so many tenants are not only behind on rent but face persistent harassment from landlords seeking to displace them. This is why the continuation of the city’s Anti-Harassment Tenant Protection (AHTP) program is critical. Through this program, over 16,000 tenants have had representation by legal services organizations throughout this city. The AHTP program has enabled tenants to sue landlords to stop pervasive harassment, housing discrimination, and severe neglect—and to compel them to perform badly needed repairs. It is more important than ever that the City continue this program so tenants can affirmatively protect their rights and their homes.” said Shekar Krishnan, City Councilmember elect representing Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst
“After years of feeling powerless against our abusive landlord who wasn’t providing heat and hot water nor repairing my apartments, my neighbors and I had no other choice than to reach out for help. With the help of our attorney from Communities Resist we were able to organize a Tenant Association and fight back against the abusive landlord. We finally won. ATHP needs to continue to fund legal services, group representation works and we need it to continue. added Ramona Bash from the 316 Suydam St. Tenant Association
“It’s imperative we keep people in their homes and protect tenants from harassment. I’m proud to support this effort and stand with those who protect tenants,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris.
“Communities Resist and members of the Leap Coalition have done incredible work to serve tenants and combat predatory harassment. The work that they do is absolutely essential in low income communities of color like mine, where displacement and tenant harassment is a constant threat. I echo demands for a renewal of the AHTP — this funding is absolutely essential in making sure that legal workers can continue to fight alongside tenants, something New Yorkers need now more than ever.” said City Council Member and Brooklyn Borough President elect Antonio Reynoso, representing Bushwick, Ridgewood and Williamsburg
“As we near the end of New York’s eviction moratorium, with rents skyrocketing to pre-pandemic highs and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program out of funds, we need the legal services and organizing support afforded by NYC’s Anti-Harassment Tenant Protection (AHTP) program more than ever. I stand in solidarity with organizations like Communities Resist and the LEAP coalition in urging our City leaders to protect and expand one of the only remaining municipal contracts that supports tenants and tenant associations.” said NY Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, representing District 50.
About Communities Resist (CoRe)
Communities Resist (CoRe) works to protect and fight for affordable housing for low-income clients. We organize and empower community members to form tenants’ associations to combat harassment, discrimination and unihabitable and unsafe living conditions. We bring legal actions in New York City, State and Federal courts, advocating for tenants rights while also leading legislative efforts in partnership with community organizations that promote the expansion of resources for affordable housing and try to minimize the loss of currently affordable units. Learn more about Communities Resist at our Facebook page.
The LEAP Coalition Includes: Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Brooklyn Legal Services Corp A, CAMBA Legal Services, Catholic Migration Services, Communities Resist, Goddard Riverside Law Project, JASA Legal Services, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, Make the Road New York, Mobilization for Justice, NMIC, TakeRoot Justice and Urban Justice Center.
If you would like more information, contact Rich Gallina at firstname.lastname@example.org or (646) 661-5531