Philly’s eviction diversion effort closer to extension

Rowhouses line North 29th Street in Philadelphia

Rowhouses on North 29th Street in Philadelphia. (Jonathan Wilson/WHYY)

The White House praised Philadelphia’s eviction diversion program earlier this year, highlighting the city’s success in keeping the city’s eviction rate at roughly half of its historic average since the national eviction moratorium ended in August 2021.

Now, the program is getting closer to an 18-month extension.

The diversion effort started during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to give tenants a chance to mediate disputes with landlords before the move to eviction court. It’s been working so well that a City Council committee approved a bill to extend the program another year and a half through 2024.

The pandemic forced many into a position where they couldn’t pay their rent and that, in turn, meant landlords couldn’t pay their mortgages. The diversion program offered support to both in order to get through the crisis.

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Haniah Harvey went through the diversion program, which helped her keep an eviction off her record, which would have made it harder to find housing in the future.

“Facing that I could probably have an eviction forever was scary,” Harvey said. “The eviction program came in and saved the day and I’m pretty sure a lot of young parents are facing the same situation.”

So far, the program has given out $300 million and helped more than 46,000 applicants.

“That’s a free program for landlords and tenants. It’s far less intimidating than court,”  said Vikram Patel of Community Legal Services. “It actually provides landlords and tenants the space to discuss the issues at hand.”

Patel added the program also builds a relationship between landlords and tenants.

“Extending the eviction diversion program will allow the city’s stellar housing advocates to continue the work that they’ve been doing to keep folks in their homes while mediating disputes between landlords and tenants, providing a pathway to resolving conflicts that does not destabilize our residents,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier who chairs the Committee on Housing Neighborhood Development and the Homeless.

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The city’s budget includes another $45 million for the second round of the program.

The extension was unanimously approved Tuesday in committee and now goes to the full city council for review and a vote.

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