Task force wants mediation to prevent evictions in Philadelphia

"We understand that a lot of tenants and landlords might not be clear on the process, their rights, and responsibilities — and landlords and tenants are often unaware of the resources available to help them," says Mitch Little of the city's Community Empowerment and Opportunity. (Tom MacDonald/ WHYY)

Philadelphia has a game plan for cutting down on the number of people evicted from their homes or apartments.

The eviction rate is high in the city, partly because only about a third of those who need subsidized housing can get into an affordable apartment or home.

The goal is to pare the annual rate of 24,000 evictions, said Mitch Little, executive director of the city’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity.

“We understand that a lot of tenants and landlords might not be clear on the process, their rights, and responsibilities — and landlords and tenants are often unaware of the resources available to help them,” Little said.

Tenant Imani Sullivan had to sell all her belongings and move in with family after she was illegally evicted.

“My kids slept on the couch, I slept on the floor,” she said. “I met a landlord who explained to me the process of me not getting evicted, but it was too late. I was back with my mother by then.”

The task force report includes 17 recommendations, including:

  • Creating a single portal for access to eviction-prevention services.
  • Setting up alternate opportunities for resolution within the eviction process, both before and after an eviction filing.
  • Developing training to educate landlords and tenants.
  • Targeting outreach to tenants facing eviction to connect them with information and services.
  • Piloting a program for loans for repairs for “mom and pop” landlords.
  • Increasing legal representation for low-income tenants.

Mayor Jim Kenney is anxious to create a mediation process similar to the city’s mortgage foreclosure diversion program. That program, which grew out of the national foreclosure crisis, has been credited as model for keeping people in their homes despite financial trouble.

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