A Call to Action – The Power of the Possibility of This Moment
April 8, 2021
A stable home offers so much more than a roof over one’s head. It provides the foundation to fulfill the aspirations of our lives – health, well-being, and the opportunity to plan for the future.
Before the pandemic, an eviction filing on one’s record – even if it did not result in an actual eviction – made it more difficult for a family to convince a new landlord to rent to them.1 Families in this situation often have to seek a new home in a neighborhood with higher crime and poverty rates or seek assistance in an emergency shelter. 2 Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 16 households faced the threat of eviction each year. Now due to the pandemic, 1 in 8 renter households are behind on rent and are at risk of eviction.
Nonprofit organizations, housing and service providers, local government workers, and other community stakeholders across Pennsylvania are toiling long hours each day to help families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. An influx of substantial new federal resources combined with additional strategies that communities are beginning to adopt provides us with incredible possibility in this moment to stabilize the many families and landlords who are struggling as a result of total or partial job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Housing Alliance is supporting PA communities to adopt programs, strategies, and policies to prevent evictions and stabilize renter households and landlords. Many of these strategies can have long-lasting impact for families that struggled to afford housing prior to the pandemic.
In Pennsylvania, the following measures can protect and stabilize tenants.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium temporarily halted residential evictions as a public health measure to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and has been extended until June 30, 2021.
The eviction moratorium extension provides us with additional time to implement strategies to prevent mass evictions once the moratorium is lifted. An eviction moratorium is only a temporary solution as rental assistance and other strategies including landlord-tenant mediation are designed to address the root causes of an eviction filing.
Several jurisdictions in Pennsylvania have implemented their own moratoria and / or eviction diversion and prevention policies including Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
- Local providers are administering $847 million in federal rental and utility assistance combined with an estimated additional $671 million, the latter created from the federal American Rescue Plan signed into law on March 11, 2021. This significant investment, combined with additional federal homeless assistance, Housing Choice Vouchers and other programs, can help thousands of families pay their rent and help both tenants and landlords re-stabilize. We urge local, state, and federal governments to maintain the flexibility of the program which to quickly get the funds into the hands of tenants and landlords who are struggling without reliable rental income.
- Landlord tenant mediation is being widely adopted across Pennsylvania to offer landlords and tenants another option to resolve their disputes outside of the courts and eviction process. Our new Landlord Tenant Mediation Report profiles current programs and our Landlord Tenant Mediation Toolkit breaks down the process of creating a program in several easy steps.
- Tenants are far less likely than landlords to have access to legal advice or representation, placing them at a significant disadvantage since the legal system is confusing and unfamiliar to many of us. There is a network of legal services organizations that are set up to help but require additional resources to fully meet the need. In addition, Montgomery County’s Eviction Prevention and Intervention Coalition (EPIC) piloted a program combining free legal support on the day of an eviction hearing with financial assistance and connection to longer term supports as a method of expanding legal representation.
By adopting the five strategies below, we can make it possible for all families to fulfill their life aspirations through the foundation that stable housing provides. Following these will ensure stability for the 1.6 million Pennsylvania households that rent along with their landlords.
- ongoing rental assistance;
- landlord-tenant mediation programs;
- expansion of legal services and representation;
- connection to supports and services for those tenants that are at most risk; and
- outreach and partnership with landlords.