To help New York City renters avoid or navigate evictions as a result of the pandemic-driven economic downturn, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new online portal Monday that centralizes virtually all of the city’s tenant-protection services.
The new “tenant resource portal” guides users that have eviction-related questions through a short survey to personalize the city or community resources that can help them. The survey, available in English and Spanish, starts by asking users to choose between three problems, including if their landlord locked them out of their apartment, if they received a paper eviction notice or if their landlord only provided verbal notice of eviction. The survey then asks additional questions to discover the details of the situation, such as whether the user’s eviction notice looks like an official court document or a letter from a landlord, or whether the landlord has even provided a reason for eviction.
The questionnaire then attempts to funnel the user to the correct service, and if users don’t find the information they’re looking for, they have the option to connect with a “tenant support specialist” in the mayor’s office after they’ve finished the survey. It’s the latest effort that the city has made to protect housing rights during a pandemic that has placed 1.5 million New Yorkers at risk of eviction, according to one investment banking firm’s estimate.
“The City is doing everything in our power to support vulnerable families as they deal with a public health and economic crisis,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press release. “With the launch of the Tenant Resource Portal, we are unveiling the first, City-hosted platform where tenants at risk of eviction can go to find a unified directory of all the housing-related resources they may need.”
The portal is free to use and will be regularly updated with information on eviction policy changes throughout the city, according to the announcement. For those without internet access — another issue that de Blasio has addressed during the pandemic — similar resources are also available via the city’s 311 phone service.
The housing challenges faced by many New Yorkers were present before the pandemic began and are expected to persist after it’s passed. City officials said the new portal was being built before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, and that the city’s IT department hosted a technology challenge in February focused on housing rights to gain a better understanding of the problem and how to address it.
“We are committed to making sure all tenants have access to the City’s tenant protection resources, and empower them to face landlords that try to illegally evict them,” Ricardo Martínez Campos, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, said in the announcement.