Rowhouses on Manning Street in Philadelphia

COUNCILMEMBERS GYM, BROOKS AND GAUTHIER INTRODUCE EMERGENCY HOUSING PROTECTION PACKAGE

In Bobby Henon, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Kendra Brooks, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, News by PHL Council

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The package protects renters from eviction and late fees, and creates programs to facilitate the long-term payment of rent for those currently unable to pay

PHILADELPHIA—Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier today announced a package of six bills and one resolution that ensure the collective health and safety of Philadelphia by protecting vulnerable renters from the pandemic and its economic fallout. The legislation will be introduced in Council on Friday, May 1.

Almost half of Philadelphians are renters, who have been largely left out of federal relief efforts. With thousands out of work, the City needs a plan to protect renters while they put their lives back together after the crisis, ensure that landlords can ultimately get paid, and relieve what is bound to be an unprecedented burden on the courts. The City can prevent thousands from being displaced. If government does not act to prevent a new wave of homelessness, the recovery will leave countless Philadelphians behind and the cycle of poverty will further expand to swallow our most vulnerable neighbors.

The bills are co-sponsored by Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), and Jamie Gauthier (3rd District). A full list of cosponsors is below.

The package of six bills and one resolution would:

  1. Extend the eviction moratorium for 60 days after the state of emergency order is lifted for residential renters as well as small businesses, with an exception where there is risk of immediate harm; introduced by Councilmember Helen Gym.

  2. Allow renters with financial hardships to pay rent over an extended period using a year-long repayment plan; introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier.

  3. Create an eviction diversion program that runs through December 31 2020, requiring both landlords and renters to participate in a mediation process designed to help resolve issues before they lead to formal evictions; introduced by Councilmember Helen Gym.

  4. Stabilize rents during the pandemic and for a year afterwards, during which landlords would be limited from increasing rents, retroactive to March 1, 2020 for those experiencing financial hardship related to the pandemic; introduced by Councilmember Kendra Brooks.

  5. Waive late fees on rent during the pandemic and for two months afterwards, which is retroactive to March 1, 2020 for those experiencing financial hardship related to the pandemic; introduced by Councilmember Kendra Brooks.

  6. Allow renters who are illegally locked out to recover damages caused by the illegal lockout; introduced by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier.

  7. Call on the PA General Assembly and the US Congress to provide municipalities a comprehensive relief package to stabilize the local rental housing market and assist property owners, including large-scale rent subsidies for landlords to make up for lost revenue.

In Philadelphia, 1,700 evictions are already scheduled and thousands more will be filed once the moratorium is lifted. When people lose their homes, it becomes more difficult to find the jobs they need to pay their rent and their children are more likely to enter foster care. Homelessness impacts the entire city, disrupting children’s education, risking public health, and increasing costs at City shelters and jails. This emergency housing package presents a bold method for recovery where housing is understood to be a basic human right.

“Our package presents a just solution to protect our most vulnerable neighbors and helps our city’s economy recover without leaving anyone behind,” said Councilmember Helen Gym. “Housing stability is crucial to economic stability. If we don’t act, people buried under mountains of debt will lose their homes before they have a chance to rebuild their income – and landlords can’t collect rent from people who are unemployed and homeless.”

“COVID-19 has presented the greatest public health threat in generations – and its economic consequences are putting housing stability at risk for many thousands of Philadelphia residents,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier. “The most safe, humane, and cost-effective way to address our city’s growing affordable housing crisis is to keep people in their homes, and this package of bills aims to do just that. I thank Councilmembers Gym and Brooks for their partnership in this effort.”

“I know what it means to be laid off from a job and have your home taken away from you and I would not wish that on anyone,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks. “Keeping families in their homes is not just good public health policy, but a matter of basic human decency. Renters are suffering from the combined forces of the affordable housing crisis and the COVID-19 crisis. Our legislation provides them with the basic protections they need to get through this.”

In Philadelphia, 13% of Black residents are unemployed and 38% of Black children live in poverty. Most renters are “rent burdened,” meaning they pay over 30% of their income towards rent.

“If the pre-COVID job market netted these conditions, then we know for sure that in the existing COVID economy not only are these families doing worse, but thousands more will join then in the ranks of the rent burdened and the financially distressed,” said Dr. Keeanga Taylor, an author and professor of African American Studies at Princeton. “It is simply irresponsible to expect people who have been barred from working by state mandate, or who were already suffering from poverty, to simply produce rents – that they can’t pay now – weeks or months from now.”

“Philadelphia must take bold and decisive action to stabilize households and communities, as a way to prevent life-threatening health consequences in the wake of this pandemic,” said Rachel Garland, Managing Attorney of the Housing Unit at Community Legal Services. “We applaud this legislation from Councilmembers Gym, Brooks, and Gauthier, because we need to support landlords and tenants working together to keep people safely in their homes, always and especially in these uncertain times.”

“I couldn’t afford my rent. I needed a few days to make the money and tried to negotiate with my landlord. He charged me an 80 dollar late fee. I told him I couldn’t afford that either,” said Aryi Peebles, a member of One Pennsylvania. “First he threatened to take me to court. Then, he came to my home and turned off the electric, hot water, and gas. That’s an illegal lockout! My daughter and I have pre-existing health conditions and his actions are putting our lives at risk. What I have experienced in the past few weeks is absurd and unjust, and I know I’m not the only person experiencing these issues.”

Extending the eviction moratorium is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Bobby Henon (6th District), Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).

Allowing renters with financial hardships to pay rent over an extended period using a year-long repayment plan is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).

Creating an eviction diversion program is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).

Stabilizing rents during the pandemic is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Helen Gym (At-Large), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).

Waive late fees on rent during the pandemic and for two months afterwards is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Helen Gym (At-Large), Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Isaiah Thomas (At-Large), and Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large).

Allowing renters who are illegally locked out to recover damages caused by the illegal lockout is co-sponsored by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Derek Green (At-Large), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).

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