ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A little less than a year since New York’s eviction moratorium expired, Albany County is moving forward to assist residents facing evictions. The County Legislature voted Monday night to allocated $160,000 for the Eviction Prevention and Intervention Collaborative, also known as EPIC.
“We think it’s going to be a significant help to prevent evictions in Albany County,” said Andrew Joyce, Chairman of the Albany County Legislature.
The county’s $160,000 allocation is part of a $320,000 total investment. The other funding includes $100,000 from the City of Albany and $60,000 from Cares NY.
EPIC is a collaborative effort with several stakeholders to help provide legal assistance and other resources to tenants faced with housing insecurity, “The program envisions working with law students and attorneys from Legal Aid, along with the United Tenants of Albany to really bring a comprehensive support network for tenants who are facing instability in their housing,” said Nic Rangel, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.
According to the Legislature, as of last month, there have been nearly 4,000 evictions filed in the county so far this year, 72% of which are in Albany. Advocates say legal representation for these tenants hovers around 2%.
“There’s a lot of research around the dramatic improvement of outcomes for tenants that do have an attorney in their eviction case. A lot of it revolves around what their legal protections are,” Rangel explained.
Landlords, however, have counsel over 90% of the time in eviction proceedings. Opponents counter that representation stems from legal requirements from the state.
“It’s New York State law that if you have an LLC, which most of these landlords have to protect themselves, New York State law says you have to have legal representation,” said Frank Mauriello, Minority Leader of the County Legislature.
Members of the Republican Minority Conference are blasting the program as government overreach, “We realize there are both good and bad landlords and tenants out there. Government should not get in the middle of civil legal proceedings. It’s the government really putting their finger on the scale of Justice,” Mauriello said.
There’s also concern that part of the program’s funding is coming directly from Albany, with fears that EPIC will only benefit city residents.
When asked about these fears, Joyce said the program is a county-wide initiative to deliver assistance to eligible tenants.
“A lot of people are one crisis, one mistake, one emergency away from housing insecurity and an issue that affects everybody in Albany County, not just the city of Albany,” he said.
It’s still unclear what the structure of EPIC will look like, with stakeholders continuing to plan. Joyce anticipates the pilot program will continue to grow and receive more funding in the future, noting the need for housing assistance throughout Albany County.