The Philadelphia Mayor’s Taskforce on Eviction Prevention and Response released its Draft Eviction Task Force Report this week. The Taskforce will host a public feedback session on May 8th from 5:30-7:30pm seeking input on the report. Additionally, individuals can submit written comments to EvictionTaskForce@phila.gov through May11th. The report and recommendations are a result of a 22-member mayoral-appointed task force originally convened in September 2017. According to the report, in 2017 evictions plagued approximately one in every 14 tenants in the city resulting in over 24,000 eviction proceedings filed. The report also notes that eviction disproportionately affects women of color with children.
The task force identified 17 recommendations across several domains including outreach and education, resources and supports, housing standards and enforcement, and legal process and policies.
The recommendations include:
- The City should create a single portal for access to eviction prevention services. The capacity of existing housing counselors and of the Tenant Referral Help Line should be expanded.
- The City should conduct a public education campaign about eviction and about safe, habitable housing. The campaign should focus on increasing knowledge of rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and encouraging the use of available resources.
- Direct outreach to tenants with an eviction filing should be increased. The intent of this outreach is to make sure tenants are aware of the eviction filing, the court date, and available resources.
- The City should seek and preserve funding for a program to enable small landlords (those who own fewer than four rental units) to get low-interest loans to make necessary repairs to their properties, ensuring good quality affordable housing for tenants.
- Philadelphia should run a pilot to replicate HomeBase, New York’s targeted homelessness prevention program. This emergency homelessness prevention program would deploy existing funding for short-term or long-term housing subsidy.
- The City should develop a pre-complaint resolution meeting process. This would allow tenants and landlords to engage in a fair and productive conversation prior to the filing of an eviction complaint, providing an opportunity to negotiate issues such as repayment of rent without an eviction on the record, and without legal costs for either party.
- The City, the Municipal Courts, and the Fair Housing Commission should share data with non-profit partners so the non-profit partner can develop a database with publicly available information about landlords and rental properties.
- The City should expand the use of data analysis to identify properties being rented without licenses. By using predictive models, the City can pinpoint the location of suspected unlicensed rental units.
- The City should explore code changes to make enforcement against problematic landlords more efficient and effective, based on further study of best practices nationwide.
- L&I and the City Law Department should expand their pilot program for inspection of and enforcement against the most problematic landlords.
- City Council should pass Good Cause Eviction legislation. Good Cause evictions require landlords to provide a just or good reason prior to evicting tenants. This legislation would seek to stop evictions due to reasons of discrimination and retaliation.
- The City should increase enforcement of requirements related to key rental documents. The City should increase oversight to ensure that current laws around licensing and housing quality are being met.
- Municipal Court should set up a mandatory, pre-hearing mediation process. The intent of this process would be to give landlords and tenants time to consider their options and consult with housing counselors, before having to make important financial commitments.
- The City should increase legal representation for low-income tenants. This would include expanding resources for legal representation from legal aid organizations’ attorneys, as well as working with non-profit partners to expand recruit of volunteer lawyers.
- The City should increase supports and provide funding for people forced to move as a result of Sheriff’s Sales. This would include providing funding for moving costs and new security deposits, expanding the use of sequestration to divert tax liened properties, as well as ensuring that tenants have an adequate notice to find alternative housing.
- The City should work with the Municipal Court to expunge eviction filings and judgments. This would decrease discrimination against tenants who have previously had an eviction filing.
- The City should work with the Municipal Court to ensure that the Court and the mediation process are accessible to individuals who are unfamiliar with the court process.