LEGISLATION EXTENDING NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED EVICTION DIVERSION PROGRAM PASSES OUT OF COMMITTEE

In Council News, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, News by PHL Council

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Bill No. 210920 extends authorization for Philadelphia to Continue Program

PHILADELPHIA — Today, the City Council Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless unanimously passed Bill No. 210920 out of Committee, extending authorization for Philadelphia’s nationally acclaimed eviction diversion program. Introduced by Councilmember Helen Gym, the legislation extends authorization to the City of Philadelphia to continue operating the system in partnership with the courts and nonprofit partners. Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program has credibly reduced eviction filings by over 75% in 2020, with over 93% of cases that participated in mediation successfully finding solutions.

“Philadelphia has proven to the entire country that with bold, smart policies, we can address one of the most pernicious impacts of poverty: evictions,” said Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large). “Our commitment now is to a long-term process that protects renters and keeps our communities together. I am sincerely grateful for the support of my Council colleagues, partner organizations, city agencies, and municipal courts who have helped bring stability to thousands of families through our innovative program.”

“For far too long, there has been an imbalance of power in the eviction process,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, Chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless. “Through extending the eviction diversion program, we can reduce the number of evictions filed in our city and restore power to the tenants who previously faced this battle all alone.”

“Philadelphia has been a national leader in keeping tenants in their homes during the COVID pandemic,” said Melissa Long, Director, Division of Housing and Community Development, City of Philadelphia. “I am pleased to be here today to support Bill No. 210920.”

“Before the pandemic, Philadelphia had over 19,000 eviction filings annually. These eviction filings overwhelmingly affected Black, female-led households — creating a cycle of evictions that forced many households of color into a downward spiral economically, educationally, and employment wise,” said Rachel Garland, Managing Attorney, Community Legal Services. “Just this past year, thanks to the success of the diversion program, there have been approximately 6,000 eviction filings. This is an incredible reduction, and has enabled households at most risk of harm, both due to Philadelphia’s high eviction rate and COVID-19, to maintain some stability during this very destabilizing time.

“Landlords and tenants benefit from this program, as do many of the City’s most vulnerable neighborhoods,” said Catherine Hicks, President, NAACP-Philadelphia. “Eviction’s impact extends well beyond housing: children may be pulled from classes as their parents move, families may face greater food insecurity, and the health of the community is put at risk as those evicted find it harder to find new shelter and housing.”

“I am here today in support of this legislation because preventing evictions is critical to keeping people safe and healthy. Housing is tied to almost all indicators of health and well-being,” said Rev. Eric Dobson, Deputy Director, Fair Share Housing. “As demonstrated by the pilot, the program is both a success from a systems and people perspective. It has saved the system money and resources, while also helping thousands of individuals and families in our city. Keeping individuals and families in their homes is critical to keeping Philadelphia safe and healthy — this program must be extended.”

“The Philadelphia Diversion program has been enormously successful,” said Daniel Hyman, Staff Attorney, SeniorLAW Center. “Philadelphia is leading the nation in distribution of rental assistance, in large part because of the support of Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program and the requirement that landlords access rental assistance prior to filing a case for non-payment of rent.”

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