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2021 is doomsday for coronavirus evictions, but Philly City Council extended a program that could help thousands stay in their homes. Photo: stories.avvo.com
2021 is doomsday for coronavirus evictions, but Philly City Council extended a program that could help thousands stay in their homes. Photo: stories.avvo.com

Philly City Council extends EHPA’s eviction diversion program to March 31, 2021

The legislative body’s final meeting of the year produced results that could have many renters breathing a sigh of relief heading into the new year.

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In a unanimous decision part of Philadelphia City Council’s final meeting of the year, it passed an extension of its eviction diversion program for struggling renters amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown of businesses.

The program was set to expire at the end of 2020.

Councilmember Helen Gym, who first introduced the program as part of City Council’s landmark Emergency Housing Protections Act in May to combat the pending coronavirus eviction wave, initially wanted the program to be extended until June of 2021.

The amended bill that passed on Dec. 10 has it going until March 31, 2021. 

Started after Pennsylvania’s initial eviction moratorium ended on Sep. 1, 2020, the mandate from City Council requires landlords to first go through the eviction diversion program before filing formal evictions against tenants in court. 

The program facilitates alternative payment agreements between both parties. 

Landlords could only ignore the program if the tenant posed an imminent risk of harm or a meeting to discuss a new payment plan could not be scheduled for 30 days.

In data released by Gym’s office, the eviction diversion program has initiated 230 mediations between renters and landlords, resulting in 180 successful payment agreements being negotiated since it started.

Earlier reporting on the program revealed that it started small in the beginning with the number of mediations before increasing exponentially in October and again in November. 

“The program has shown overwhelming success, proving that there are alternatives to the thousands of evictions we see in court every single year,” Gym said in a statement following the bill’s advancement out of committee.

The success of the eviction diversion program comes at the expense of extending Philadelphia’s current eviction moratorium put in place by the courts, which has a hard deadline of Dec. 31 unless further action is taken. 

On a national scale, the CDC’s sweeping COVID-19 eviction moratorium is also set to end at the end of the year, putting millions across the country at risk of eviction come 2021.  

Some of them are in Philadelphia, but the expansion of its eviction diversion program could help soften the blow of the “tsunami” of evictions many officials have been warning for months.

Editor's Note: A previous headline for this article stated the eviction diversion program was extended until March 31, 2020. That date has already passed, and the real date is March 31, 2021.

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting as brokeinphilly.org.

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