City Council plans to extend Philadelphia eviction diversion program through 2024

For two years, Philadelphia has required landlords to try mediation with tenants as part of the eviction diversion program before filing for eviction in court in most cases. City council members are now considering extending the program until the first half of 2024.

The city launched the Eviction Diversion Program in September 2020 to help tenants in financial difficulty during the pandemic, and it has extended the program a few times. Last December, Council voted unanimously to extend the scheme until 2022 as long as sufficient rental assistance was available. This assistance has been essential in helping tenants repay their rent.

Council and Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration have allocated $45 million in rental assistance for the program to continue, with $30 million reserved for the current fiscal year. To date, Philadelphia’s rental assistance program is funded by federal pandemic relief funds distributed nearly $300 million to more than 46,000 candidates, according to the city.

READ MORE: Philly program that prevents evictions will continue through 2022

“A stable home is the foundation of a stable life,” council member Jamie Gauthier said at a council hearing on Tuesday. “And it’s essential that the housing policies we offer focus on maintaining stable housing for our residents.” The expansion of the eviction diversion program is a necessary step to achieve this.

Of the more than 2,000 participating landlords and tenants who are no longer in mediation from September 2020 to the first full week of January 2022, 80% have reached an agreement, said Melissa Long, director of the housing and development division. city ​​community.

Since early January, substantial rent assistance has no longer been available, but to date, 60% of landlords and tenants participating in the program have continued to enter into agreements, Long said. Since January 10, about 930 households have been able to stay at home, she said.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia ends its rental assistance program because it runs out of funds

As fewer deportation cases come to court, the backlog of cases has improved. For situations that require a judge, rental property owners now wait about 30 days for a hearing, up from about 90 days previously.

The federal government has called Philadelphia’s program a model for other cities. At Tuesday’s Council hearing, advocates for tenants and landlords said they supported the extension of the scheme.

Andre Del Valle, vice president of government affairs at the Pennsylvania Apartment Association, said he appreciates the collaboration that continues to improve the program “to find a balance that allows owners to recover outstanding balances while preventing instability. in the city of Philadelphia”. He said the association hopes to reduce the time it takes for mediation, which he called one of the biggest challenges for landlords.

If the program is extended, owners entering it are expected to participate for at least 30 days, up from 45 previously.

Through the program, housing counselors connect tenants with resources, and trained mediators provide space for tenants and landlords to defuse disagreements and find mutually agreeable solutions. These solutions can include home repairs, repayment plans, or giving tenants time to move out.

READ MORE: Philly’s program to prevent evictions is a national model. Lawmakers want to make it permanent.

This latest version of the eviction diversion program would expire on June 30, 2024. On Tuesday, council members pulled the bill out of committee for consideration by the full council.

Preventing an eviction filing in court helps tenants because past eviction records make it harder for tenants to find suitable housing in the future.

It was a “scary” prospect for Haniah Harvey, a 24-year-old who faced deportation along with her son. Harvey said she spent her life savings moving into her current home after being forced out of her old apartment building, which the city closed for trespassing. So she was already behind on payments to her landlord when Amazon cut her working hours, she said.

At Tuesday’s hearing, she called the eviction diversion program a “lifeline.”

“I feel like the deportation program came along and saved the day,” she said.

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