| Photo via City Council of Jersey City Website
JERSEY CITY, NJ – A right-to-counsel (RTC) legislation is set to be introduced by local officials to establish a right-to-counsel office to connect tenants facing eviction to legal services and resources like rental assistance program. It would also establish an implementation oversight board led by tenants.
Considered one of the strongest RTC policies in the nation, Mayor Steven Fulop, along with councilmembers James Solomon, Frank Gilmore, and Yousef J. Saleh, have joined forces to sponsor the proposed legislation.
According to the RTC proponents, the RTC office and services would be paid for entirely by collecting fees on new development, providing the city with tens of millions of dollars for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund each year. The legislation will also ensure that any new development in Jersey City provides funding for new affordable housing.
“We have made historic improvements to expand affordability and important protections for residents, and this Right-to-Counsel proposal will put the necessary policies in place to further help our most vulnerable families facing unfair evictions,” said Mayor Fulop. “Most people facing eviction can’t afford an attorney to defend their basic human right to housing, and this RTC goes beyond funding their legal needs. It will also add critical funding to expand affordable housing opportunities for low- and middle-income residents for generations to come.”
Councilmember James Solomon said everyone deserves the right to safe, affordable, and everyone deserves the right to keep that housing. ” “We all want to reduce the number of evictions in our city and to do that, we need to make sure that tenants are fairly represented in eviction court while ensuring that the developers profiting from rising rents pay what they owe.,” added Solomon.
“People facing eviction—disproportionately Black and brown communities—are currently not entitled to representation when facing eviction,” said Councilmember Frank Gilmore. “These are often the people who can’t afford private representation, while landlords and developers who make large profits can and do. It’s time to tip the scales back towards the people and ensure everyone has the right to fair representation.”
Councilmember Yousef J. Saleh also expressed his views about the need for the RTC, saying that people cannot afford to pay skyrocketing rents right now, leaving more families at risk of eviction. Meanwhile, “developers continue to get away with making record profits at our expense,” said Saleh. “We need to fight to keep Jersey City residents in their homes, because higher costs and a lack of legal protections are driving them out.”
–With Ricky Rillera/PDM