Hapco Philadelphia Board Member Victor Pinckney, Sr. participated in a virtual White House Summit that sought input on how to speed the distribution of federal Emergency Rental Assistance funds.
With the CDC’s eviction moratorium set to expire in just days, on July 31, the Biden Administration is exploring ways to streamline the process of getting overdue rent payments into the hands of landlords, hoping to prevent an anticipated avalanche of evictions in the coming months.
Two separate White House Summits included presentations from a variety of city mayors, judges and housing advocates on eviction diversion programs and other processes that local municipalities and courts have found effective. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can. Every preventable eviction is a preventable heartbreak for families,” said Gene Sperling, who oversees COVID-relief funding for the White House. Distributing billions of dollars to qualifying tenants to pay landlords has been an enormous undertaking, because a national distribution infrastructure is not in place, leaving many lower-income tenants and small “mom and pop” landlords unaware of the available funding. But distribution is improving. In June, more than 290,000 families were assisted, with $1.5 billion dollars distributed, three times more than in April. But with the moratorium expiring, the government is racing to distribute a record amount of funds in August and September, trying to beat the anticipated eviction onslaught. Housing advocates nationwide shared their success stories. For example, Stay Housed L.A., a community partnership agency in Los Angeles, has assisted more than 200,000 tenants and landlords by offering education, legal assistance and creating a one-stop-shop website that directs landlords and tenants to apply for emergency rental assistance. Similar programs have been established across the country, including Philadelphia’s one-stop-shop site at phlrentassist.org. Through July 2, Philadelphia has served more than 22,000 households and provided more than $100 million in financial assistance to pay rent and utilities. Still, the approval rate in the latest phase of city funding only sits at 60%, and with about $90 million dollars still available, Philadelphia could forfeit money to another municipality if additional landlord and tenant recipients are not identified soon.
Part of the problem in Philadelphia is that a landlord cannot move forward on a funding application without the consent of the tenant, and some tenants are uncooperative. Hapco Philadelphia Board Member Victor Pinckney, Sr. says that needs to change. He participated in a White House Summit breakout session that included Philadelphia’s Landlord Tenant Judge Matthew Wolf. Pinckney says a productive conversation led to a scheduled upcoming meeting with the judge to discuss L&T court policy and another meeting with Greg Heller, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA), to discuss emergency rental assistance fund distribution before time runs out. PRA is the city’s implementation arm for community development and affordable housing finance.
In the meantime, any Philadelphia landlord who is owed past-due rent from a tenant due to a COVID-related financial hardship is urged to immediately apply for emergency rental assistance at phlrentassist.org.