Pushing Philly to mandate landlords have ‘good cause’ before eviction

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Peter Moskowitz, author of

Peter Moskowitz, author of "How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood." (Courtesy of Emily Pober Higgins)

A rally set for Thursday and organized by the Philadelphia Tenants Union is expected to put more pressure on City Council to vote for a “good cause” eviction-protection measure.

NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller spoke with union supporter Peter Moskowitz, author of “How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood,” about Philadelphia’s high eviction rates and how this proposed ordinance could shift the status quo.

Interview highlights

On the terms of the “good cause” proposal and how it could change the eviction process: 

“Basically what it says, if a landlord wants to evict someone, there must be a good reason — a good cause to do so. And those causes can range from destroying the property or destroying things within it; being a repeated nuisance to your neighbors; or, of course, not paying your rent on time repeatedly. Now, landlords can just say, ‘You’re evicted.’ They don’t have to give a reason at all, and you’re out on the street within the next 30 days, if they want. This [proposal] lists specific reasons that they have to evict you. And, if they do evict you randomly or without one of these causes, it would essentially say now you have recourse to say they violated this law and you can go to court.”

On how the eviction rate in Philadelphia compares to that of other  cities: 

“Evictions, to put it bluntly, are at crisis levels in Philadelphia right now. In some neighborhoods, up to 15 percent of people in any given year are being evicted, so that’s 15 percent of an entire neighborhood being kicked out of their houses. Every year, they’re higher on average in the entire city than in other comparable cities across the country, but it really is a neighborhood-by-neighborhood issue in these rapidly gentrifying areas. And in really poor areas where people don’t have stable incomes, eviction is reaching these tremendous levels.”

On cities where “good cause” eviction measures are in place: 

“The entire state of New Jersey is probably the best example of this. They have good cause on their books. It’s the same bill essentially, and it does exactly what Philadelphia’s bill would do. It just says there has to be a specific reason for tenants to be evicted. And I like pointing to New Jersey because it kind of refutes the points that real estate investors like to make: ‘Oh, we won’t be able to make any money’ or ‘The industry will collapse if you pass this bill.’ New Jersey is a very real estate-friendly place, and so it hasn’t collapsed a real estate market, but it’s given tenants a few more protections … in court, especially.”

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