December 11, 2020
Philadelphia City Council unanimously voted to extend the city's Eviction Diversion Program into 2021, meaning that hundreds of renters in the city could avoid losing their homes during the COVI-19 pandemic.
The program created a requirement that landlords attempt mediation with tenants before entering the eviction process. This allows for alternatives to eviction that keep tenants housed and get landlords paid, according to a council press release.
Councilmemeber Helen Gym introduced the amendment to extend the eviction prevention program.
"In a time of grave uncertainty, City Council, housing advocates, and our agencies partnered together to create a historic program to meet this moment, and I am proud that this amendment passed unanimously as COVID cases continue to rise," Gym said. "The program has shown overwhelming success, proving that there are alternatives to the thousands of evictions we see in court every single year. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues to find a permanent home for the program in our Municipal Courts."
The passage of this amendment on Thursday will protect Philadelphians from evictions this winter and ultimately limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a national study.
The program started in September, and through mediation has prevented 182 renters and their families from being evicted. Another 220 cases are scheduled for mediation in the coming weeks.
One of those renters, Diane Buchanon, testified before City Council's Housing Committee on Nov. 26 about her experience with the Eviction Diversion Program earlier this year.
She said she shares a home with her daughter who lost her job due to COVID-19, leaving Buchanon now responsible for both shares of rent. Then, just has her financial responsibility increased, her refrigerator broke.
Buchanon said her landlord was slow to help her, and she had been was considering moving when she heard about the Eviction Diversion Program.
"I was really surprised because I didn't think it was real," she said at the Nov. 26 hearing. "I really appreciated the order of the mediation. Having the mediator there, monitoring when things got a little hot ... I felt like I was being heard, I felt like somebody was listening to me, nobody was dismissing what I was saying."
Buchanon and her landlord reached a deal, and she was able to stay in her home.
The eviction prevention ordinance was created in the spring, during what most believe would be the height of the pandemic. The extension of the program will assist tenants bound to be impacted by this latest coronavirus surge, which is proving to be worse than the spring.
A city-wide eviction moratorium was put in place by the Philadelphia Housing Authority and extended to March 2021, though it only applies to residents in Philadelphia Housing Authority properties.
Landlords can submit applications for the Eviction Diversion Program here.