Philadelphia Eviction Diversion Program Extended to 2022 | Local news

The Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project (PEPP) was created in 2017 in collaboration with City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney to help tenants facing eviction through legal services, mediation services and training.

SeniorLAW Center is one of the programs partnered with PEPP to provide legal services to people aged 60 and over who are facing tenant legal issues.

Jacob Speidel is the Director of Tenant Rights at the SeniorLAW Center.

Speidel says many seniors have struggled to pay their rent for a variety of reasons throughout the pandemic.

“People sometimes think older people have a fixed income and are immune to financial crises,” said Speidel. “Many older people are not yet receiving benefits because they are not old enough or because they work in addition to receiving retirement benefits, or because they depend on financial assistance from family members who working. “

Announced in August 2020, the eviction and diversion program allows an agreement between landlords and tenants without involving the courts. The program was established to help tenants in financial difficulty during the pandemic.

Speidel said the eviction diversion program has enabled seniors who lost income during COVID to get proper legal advice on rental assistance options that help them avoid being sent home. .

Although the Eviction Diversion Program does not guarantee funds for rental assistance, Philadelphia has implemented a rental assistance program during the pandemic which has seen thousands of applications, not all of which were processed. With the help of the diversion program, mediations help landlords and tenants resolve the issue before it reaches the point of filing an eviction claim.

The diversion program was due to end at the end of December; However, the city council voted unanimously to extend the program until 2022 during last week’s session.

“The Philadelphia Eviction Diversion Program was created in an emergency and crisis,” said Helen Gym, at-Large Board member. “It happened before we had hundreds of millions of dollars in rent assistance. It happened before we knew how long the COVID crisis would last. But I think what this body of the board has finally figured out is that COVID has exposed the existing ruptures and crises within a system. It didn’t just create them.

Gym said that in Philadelphia, poverty is rampant throughout the city and is a lived experience that accompanies eviction. Before the pandemic, Philly had the fourth highest eviction rate in the country, processing around 22,000 a year.

“For two years in a row, Philadelphia, America’s poorest major city, has reduced the number of evictions by 75% compared to 22,000 evictions in 2019,” Gym said. “We did 4,500 less than in 2020, we will be around 6,000 or a little more than in 2021. So there are alternatives to what has often been one of the worst days in some people’s lives. , which is to have all that one has. discarded without prior notification.

According to Gym, more than $ 230 million in funding has been distributed in the form of rent assistance to 40,000 households.

Before the pandemic, there was a 90-day waiting list for filing an eviction application in city court, and it is currently 30 days. Gym said she wanted people to know there are options, and the diversion program’s success rate is 93%.

“I hope this program will continue to evolve and grow and that our account to city council and our city will continue to evolve and grow in our responses to a situation that is complicated, but devastating for thousands of Philadelphians. Gym said mentioned.

The expansion of the diversion program prevents many people from being excluded from their homes, Speidel said.

“Without this extension, many tenants would have had evictions against them in court and would not have had a defense against the eviction because they owe them money,” Speidel said. “It saves more time and more help in trying to get the landlord to pay the money before people end up in court and end up locked up.”

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