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CITY COUNCIL’S HOUSING COMMITTEE SUPPORTS MAKING PHILLY’S EVICTION DIVERSION PROGRAM PERMANENT, BILL HEADS TO COUNCIL FLOOR

In Council News, Featured, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, News, Nicolas O'Rourke, Rue Landau by Jamie Gauthier

PHILADELPHIA – Today, City Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless, chaired by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier and vice-chaired by Councilmember Rue Landau, passed Bill No. 240245 out of committee with a favorable recommendation. This bill seeks to make Philadelphia’s nationally acclaimed Eviction Diversion Program permanent.

The entire City Council will now consider Bill No. 240245. It is eligible for final passage as soon as Thursday, May 30th.

“The Eviction Diversion Program started as an emergency pandemic measure and has since become the national standard for keeping families in their homes, said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Chair of City Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless and one of the architects of the Eviction Diversion Program. “The pandemic is finally in the rearview mirror, but working-class, Black and brown families continue to face enormous housing insecurity. Our communities still need the Eviction Diversion Program, and I am proud that today we are one step closer to making it the permanent law of the land!”

The Eviction Diversion Program (EDP) is a free city service that facilitates satisfactory and sustainable landlord-tenant agreements through mediation or supported direct negotiation. A landlord’s good faith participation in the EDP is required before seeking a legal eviction through court. The program is considered completed when an agreement has been reached or the 30th day has passed.

Minority Leader Kendra Brooks (At-Large), who also authored the Eviction Diversion Program, said, “This legislation saved thousands from eviction and has been touted as a national model. It elevated Philadelphia as a leader on this issue and to this day, our City still gets inquiries about how other cities can set up their own eviction diversion programs. As our housing crisis intensifies, we must make sure that rental assistance is available for the renters and small landlords who need it and that we build on the program’s success by including $50 million for rental assistance in our next budget.”

A veto-proof majority of City Council already supports making the Eviction Diversion Program permanent. Bill No. 240245 was introduced by Minority Leader Brooks, Councilmember Gauthier, Minority Whip O’Rourke, and Councilmember Landau. It was co-sponsored by Majority Whip Thomas, Deputy Majority Whip Bass, Councilmember Ahmad, Councilmember Jones, Councilmember Lozada, Councilmember Harrity, Councilmember Driscoll, and Councilmember Squilla.

Councilmember Rue Landau (At-Large), Vice Chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless, said, “We know that Black and brown people, and especially Black mothers, are evicted at disproportionate rates, and eviction records can follow a person throughout their lifetimes. On a systemic level, we have to change the process of eviction so that people’s lives are not overturned because of a predatory slumlord or because they hit hard times. In the short term, we must do everything in our power as a legislative body to ensure vulnerable Philadelphians can stay in their homes, and making the Eviction Diversion Program permanent will mean that countless families will have the stability and security they deserve.”

Councilmembers Gauthier, Brooks, and Gym first introduced the Eviction Diversion Program during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, it has empowered tens of thousands of renters and small landlords to resolve issues without going to court. The initiative has received national praise from a variety of stakeholders, including the White House and Governor Shapiro.

“Having even one eviction filing on your record can have devastating effects for tenants, from becoming ineligible for public housing programs to being screened out of the application process. Tenants in Philly are fighting for a responsive mediation process that doesn’t worsen their prospects for adequate housing, and support for the Eviction Diversion Program is a critical way that legislators can join in that mission,” said Minority Whip Nicolas O’Rourke (At-Large).

Especially when it is coupled with rental assistance, the Eviction Diversion Program is one of Philadelphia’s most effective anti-displacement programs ever. The Eviction Diversion Program should also be considered a racial justice initiative. An overwhelming majority of tenants who face eviction are single Black mothers.

The Eviction Diversion Program empowers tenants to remain in their homes or make a graceful exit. Landlords avoid expensive legal fees and turnover and vacancy costs, while also having the opportunity to receive restitution months faster than they would otherwise. The Municipal Court, which pre-pandemic had a months-long waiting list for landlord-tenant court, can hear cases sooner and focus on situations that need judicial intervention.

According to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, eviction filings in the city have more than halved from pre-pandemic levels, making Philadelphia a leader in keeping housing issues out of court and keeping renters in their homes. As rents and housing costs continue to soar, the Eviction Diversion Program remains just as important for safety and vitality as it did in 2020.

This bill is part of the Our Philly Neighborhoods package, introduced by Councilmembers Brooks, Gauthier, O’Rourke, and Landau, which builds on the success and popularity of the Eviction Diversion Program, Whole Home Repairs programs, and property tax relief programs to keep more people in their homes and stabilize Philadelphia neighborhoods.

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