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City Council members host public hearing of Philadelphia eviction crisis.
City Council members host public hearing of Philadelphia eviction crisis.

PECO and PGW underfire amidst Philadelphia Eviction Crisis

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As tens of thousands of Philadelphians face eviction every year, some of Philadelphia's biggest service providers are getting called out for their handling of meters for unlicensed property owners who rent throughout the city.

Members of City Council held a hearing today on the eviction crisis the city faces that disproportionately affects single mothers, people of color, and poor communities.

Addressing everything from lack of enforcement of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) standards to tenants' rights to legal representation, the Council explored ways to ensure that poor communities do not have to deal with insufficient housing or housing insecurity.

But even amidst the concerns, city officials have shared a renewed commitment to ending housing insecurity in a city with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

"This is a City Council that's trying to take these issues very seriously," said Councilwoman Helen Gym, the sponsor of the bill. "In many ways, a lot of the work we're trying to do is not only to talk about poverty but to unpack the ways in which poverty is lived in this city. [...] We are living in a Philadelphia eviction crisis that targets the poorest of the nation's poorest large city."

And the numbers support the impact, the city council chambers were filled with people willing to testify, protesters, and lawyers, all suggesting various ways to approach the bill.

According to the Councilwoman, 24,000 families faced eviction based on information available from legal filings. "All in all 1 in 14 Philly renters will face eviction in this city. [...] This is a crisis that deepens poverty and spread homelessness," said Councilwoman Gym.

And in the fight against poverty and a surplus of property owners that prey on those who need affordable housing, Philadelphia's energy companies were called out for their possible role in maintaining the status quo.

"While you want to identify people for non-compliance, it doesn't mean they stop existing," said Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, a supporter of the bill.

"There's still 50,000 units that are not licensed. [...] We've started conversations with PGW and PECO because they set up multiple meter accounts and they don't verify that the properties are licensed and zoned before they put that in. [...] So there's an opportunity there to get some stakeholder eyes on the ground," said Councilwoman Sanchez.

She went on to say that privacy concerns may have been the culprit, ending the session with a commitment from the council to find innovative ways to address the eviction crisis.

 

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