Philadelphia alters eviction diversion program amid low rent aid
Philadelphia is making some adjustments to the city's eviction diversion initiative after closing its rental assistance program Friday due to low funds.
What's happening: Landlords seeking eviction will continue to have to participate in the diversion program through 2022, but now there's a shortened mediation period and an opportunity to expedite the process entirely.
Catch up fast: The city decided last month to make the eviction diversion program — an emergency housing protection set up during the pandemic — permanent through 2022.
- Philadelphia requires that all landlords seeking to evict a tenant apply to the diversion program before filing. But prior to this week, they were also required to apply to the now-defunct rental assistance program.
What's new: The city announced changes to the diversion program Monday, including a requirement that landlords provide a notice of diversion rights to tenants by mail.
- The notice must include an updated ledger account of balances owed and any other conflicts that can be discussed in mediation.
- The diversion program's required time that landlords participate in mediation before filing for eviction will drop from 45 days to 30 days.
- Landlords can also now propose an agreement directly into the eviction diversion web portal if they choose, which could expedite the process. If the tenant agrees to it, a mediation doesn't have to happen.
Of note: All landlords must apply through the web portal.
- There was formerly an option to automatically enroll when applying for rental assistance.
Between the lines: The city confirmed to Axios it expects to receive around $8.3 million from the federal government for additional emergency rental assistance. It's far less than the $485 million the city originally requested.
- Philadelphia will use the funds for rent aid applications that have already been submitted.
What they're saying: City Councilmember Helen Gym, who spearheaded the eviction diversion program, expressed disappointment that there isn't enough rental assistance.
- But she reiterated that the diversion program is still vital because "mediation is now a right of tenant that can be exercised."
Rachel Garland, a housing lawyer at Community Legal Services, said even without rental assistance, the program is still able to help tenants and landlords in need of support reach agreements before evictions are filed.
Meanwhile, Andre Del Valle, director of government affairs at the Pennsylvania Apartment Association, said the group is supportive of the reduced mediation timeline.
- "I think you want to have a good balance of keeping people in their homes, but you also want to balance landlords getting the areas they've desperately needed going into year two of this pandemic," he said.
What to watch: Gym plans to advocate for putting aside a portion of the city's budget for rental assistance in the coming months.
What to do: If you're a tenant and received a diversion rights notice, call the Philly Tenant Hotline at 215-334-HOME (4663) to participate in the program.
- Every tenant is assigned a housing counselor, and the hotline will set up an appointment between the tenant and landlord.
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