Just before the endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, and the “unendorsement” of Donald Trump, the New York Times issued a rousing endorsement of a bill in the City Council of the City of New York to guarantee every tenant and homeowner in New York City earning up to 200% of the federal poverty line and facing eviction or foreclosure a right to a lawyer to defend themselves from displacement and homelessness. Putting aside the terrible human cost of eviction and foreclosure, the fiscal costs are profound, and the Times recognizes the cost to government of providing emergency shelter to tens of thousands of New Yorkers, far more than the cost of paying non-profit legal services providers to represent families. A recent study of the potential benefits of providing lawyers for low-income tenants shows that a roughly $200 million investment in paying lawyers to represent such tenants facing eviction in New York City would save over half a billion dollars in money spent on shelter for the homeless and the other costs associated with evictions. The Times recognizes what advocates have been saying for decades: providing funding for lawyers for tenants in housing court and homeowners in foreclosure in New York City, indeed, anywhere, makes good fiscal and moral sense.
For more on the value of a lawyer in eviction proceedings, and the case for representation of low-income tenants and homeowners, read my piece on the subject here.