We Must Do More to Protect Renters from Eviction

By Councilmember Jamie Gauthier

Our city’s housing market is going through a period of major change. For the first time in Philadelphia’s history, renters outnumber homeowners. Over half of those renters pay over 30% of their income on housing costs, and that rises to 85% for renters making under $35,000 a year. We see this in real-time throughout the district.

What do these numbers mean for our neighbors who are living in poverty? Our neighbors are facing a growing threat of losing their homes. Over 19,000 evictions were filed in 2019. That amounts to thousands of lives turned upside down, belongings put out on the street, school days missed, and jobs lost.

During my campaign last year, I went from door to door in neighborhoods all over West and Southwest Philadelphia, speaking with residents about what keeps them up at night. The number-one issue that people brought up in those conversations was gentrification and the rising cost of housing. While there are promising efforts underway to reduce our city’s relentless eviction rate, I believe it is Council’s duty to act to protect all Philadelphians and allow them to keep a roof over their heads.

This is why I’m holding a hearing on Philadelphia’s ‘Good Cause’ legislation later this month. These laws, which were passed unanimously by City Council in 2018 and went into effect in April of last year, require landlords to provide a valid reason to terminate a lease. However, right now the law only protects renters with month-to-month leases—a small fraction of the overall renter population here in the 3 rd District.

Our upcoming hearing will give us the opportunity to check in with the Fair Housing Commission—the entity that enforces the Good Cause law—and other housing partners, to understand how the system is working. We’re also looking forward to hearing from Philadelphia renters, and from the community at large, about their experiences and challenges with housing. Considering how important this issue is to so many of our city’s residents, I want to make sure that this law is being implemented effectively and explore what can be done to expand the protections that it offers.

I invite you to join me and the Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless at this hearing next Friday, March 13 at 10:00 am.

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