Philadelphia City Council recently passed a package of bills to protect renters in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Housing Protection Act (EHPA) was passed unanimously on June 18th, 2020. The package is composed of five bills designed to keep renters in their homes as a matter of bolstering public health, preventing homelessness, and enacting justice.
As quoted in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Councilwoman Helen Gym stated that, “In this moment, each of us knows that stable housing is as much a means of racial and economic justice as it is a means of economic recovery”.
The EHPA includes bills that extend the ban on evictions through August 31st (Bill No. 200295), allow certain renters to participate in a nine-month repayment plan for back rent (Bill No. 200305), temporarily waive late fees on rent (Bill No. 200302), provide relief to victims of illegal lockouts (Bill No. 200304), and create an eviction diversion program through the end of the year, requiring landlords and renters to participate in a mediation process in hopes of avoiding a formal eviction (Bill No. 200294).
The bills were initially introduced by Councilmembers Gym and newcomers Jamie Gauthier and Kendra Brooks in April. The full Council voted on the bills after hearing from multiple stakeholders including renters, housing advocates, landlords, and housing and building associations. According to WHYY, a sixth bill (No. 200301) that was originally part of the package would have temporarily prohibited rent increases for those experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. However, this bill was voted down in committee after opposition from landlords.
For further details on the Emergency Housing Protection Act and related protections at the state and federal level, see City Council’s June 18th press release. Renters may also want to check PhillyTenant.org for additional resources.