Safe and Stable Housing Is Justice

Housing justice is the foundation of vibrant communities. Safe and stable homes help people, families, and neighborhoods thrive.

Any conversation around community safety must include how to address housing. Housing is the bedrock of well-being in our lives, supporting our ability to stay healthy, keep a job, succeed in school, and maintain community and family ties.

But far too many people struggle to find and stay in decent, affordable homes. Evictions destabilize families. Unsafe conditions disrupt people’s lives and health. Tenants struggle to assert their rights. These harms disproportionately impact women of color and their children, the product of racial injustice in housing policy. Often compounding these historical injustices is the power imbalance between landlords and tenants in housing court.

If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.
— MATTHEW DESMOND, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City 

Helping to preserve housing stability in historically disinvested, predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods across New York State and New Jersey is a critical method of redressing racial injustice and attaining true community safety. Stable and fair access to housing helps people avoid contact with the legal system, stops the cycle of trauma associated with displacement and instability, helps those returning from incarceration rebuild their lives, and fosters safety for individuals, families, and communities. 

We have helped thousands of New York and New Jersey residents remain in their homes by providing direct assistance with rent and other tenancy issues; helping tenants get critical repairs; connecting residents to legal services and benefits; and providing trauma-informed, multi-lingual care. Our work takes place in the courthouse and in the communities that need it most. Through it all, we are problem-solvers working with tenants, community leaders, city agencies, and the courts in pursuit of strong, vibrant, healthy communities.

Red Hook staff visits community member to see the condition of their home
people working on shipping container legacy project at Patterson Houses
Staff helping community member at Legal Hand office in Jamaica

Read our New Report | Housing Is Justice: Exploring State and Local Innovations

Housing insecurity and justice system involvement can be a vicious cycle with long-lasting effects for individuals, families, and communities as well as government systems. This report explores ways that actors in the justice system and housing agencies can partner to break this cycle. Through a national survey and 32 individual interviews with practitioners in diverse places, as well as a scan of over 50 programs, the paper explores the innovative policies and programs and the keys to successful collaborations in this space. 

The report was created in collaboration with the Center for Justice Innovation and the Housing Solutions Lab at New York University’s Furman Center. 

Read the report.

Latest on The Arc

Why Eviction Prevention Is Vital For Justice

A Black, older resident uses a walker to get to the door of her public housing building, Wagner Houses

“Our typical client is a female head of household with multiple children—which means the average person being evicted is a child,” says Yaniris Gomez of our Newark Community Solutions team. One in five renters at risk of eviction are Black women, who also face unequal pay and caregiving responsibilities. Eviction destabilizes life for millions of families each year, most of all in communities that have historically been marginalized. We talked with our Newark team about their efforts to prevent evictions of vulnerable populations in the tri-state area and helps answer the question: how can we help people stay in the homes they already have?

Read the article.

Stable Homes, Stable Communities: Inside Our Housing Resource Centers

Team member from our Red Hook Community Justice Center handing a pamphlet to a mother with her child outside an apartment building in Red Hook.

“I do this work because I was born in Red Hook,” says Marissa Williams, who works in Housing Resource Center at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. “This is not just a job, this is something I care about. I'm always going be here to advocate for my tenants, my friends, my family. Whoever walks through this door, they know I'm here for them.” The Arc explores our work helping tenants maintain housing and their rights in Red Hook and Harlem's NYCHA public housing. Residents can drop in to get help with all things housing—maintenance issues, trouble paying rent, harassment by landlords, looming evictions.

Read the article.

Why Housing Is Essential to Justice

Housing Resource Center at the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

"When I was a public defender, many of my clients who experienced the best outcomes had one thing in common: a stable place to call home." Courtney Bryan, our executive director, shares the ways housing and justice are deeply intertwined. Reflecting on the ways that housing is more than a right, she shares how a safe and stable home is needed for mental and physical well-being, healthy child development, getting and keeping a job, succeeding in school, and limiting contact with the legal system. As the Center focuses on creating a fair, humane justice system and building safe, healthy communities, the article shares why we fight for housing justice, as well.

Read the article.

Supporting Fair, Stable Housing in Communities and Courts

My clients are my neighbors, they see me in the supermarket. They know I understand the struggle of what they are going through…and there’s trust.

Through workshops, training, public education campaigns, organizing, outreach events, and direct service, we promote access to justice, tenant rights, and legal empowerment to keep people in their homes. We have been able to prevent evictions by working proactively to resolve tenancy and arrears issues outside of court. We also work to address hazardous apartment repairs and public space conditions that impact health and safety.

What We Do

  • Connect residents to benefits, resources, and services in our community-based centers that operate out of housing courts in Harlem and Red Hook, Brooklyn. In Harlem and Red Hook, some residents can even take care of legal matters virtually, avoiding travel to downtown Manhattan. 
  • Provide free legal information, assistance, and referrals to residents via highly trained volunteers–including both local residents and law students–at community-based storefronts.
  • Prevent the devastating harms of evictions by working closely with the court systems in New York and New Jersey to provide emergency relief, legal guidance, and referrals to supportive services for tenants at risk of losing their homes.
  • Work alongside residents of public housing across New York City to address the most pressing issues threatening the housing stability of NYCHA residents including rental arrears, evictions, health, and habitability. 
Partners pumping elbows to say hello at our Community First event in Times Square

Community First is an innovative street outreach program to connect with people who are experiencing homelessness or mental health issues, and offers a wide range of services to community members.

Westside Community First outdoor group photo

Community First is an innovative street outreach program to connect with people who are experiencing homelessness or mental health issues, and offers a wide range of services to community members.

Community First staff giving out free supplies to community members in the Times Square area

Community First is an innovative street outreach program that engages people who are experiencing homelessness or mental health challenges with a wide range of resources and connections to long-term services.

Harlem resource fair photo of staff helping community member

The second annual Harlem Housing Resource Fair supported nearly 300 residents with home repairs, rent, legal challenges, and other services offered by the 20 organizations present.

Harlem resource fair photo of staff helping community members

The second annual Harlem Housing Resource Fair supported nearly 300 residents with home repairs, rent, legal challenges, and other services offered by the 20 organizations present.

41K+ resident housing concerns addressed in Red Hook and Harlem since 2001

342 tenants assisted in Brooklyn and Suffolk County through the Eviction Diversion Initiative in 2023

$280k+ in emergency funds distributed to Essex County, New Jersey residents to cover rental arrears in 2023

Listen to More about Housing on New Thinking

Evicting Evictions

On this special episode of New Thinking, hear a profile of Red Hook Community Justice Center’s housing team, helping residents of one of New York City’s largest public housing developments navigate housing court, and working in the community to document needed repairs and ensure tenants get the support they need to avoid evictions coming to court in the first place. 

Listen to the episode.

Gideon at 60: Uncivil Justice  

Sixty years ago, in the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright decision, the Supreme Court enshrined the right to counsel for any poor person facing prison time. But when it comes to civil cases, that right rarely exists. In the second episode of the series’ exploring Gideon’s legacy, New Thinking uplifts the fight for lawyers for people facing eviction and the radical impact right-to-counsel is having in Housing Court.

Listen to the episode.