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Housing in Brief: PA Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Eviction Diversion Program

Plus, Houston tenants demand safe living conditions under a new union and more

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Extends Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extending Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program, the Philly Voice reports.

The program, now extended through Aug. 31 at the request of the Philadelphia Municipal Court, requires landlords to attend mediation with their clients and apply for rental assistance. Landlords must also wait 45 days before filing an eviction complaint in the court. A local judge said the program helped conserve the court’s resources during COVID-19.

At the start of the pandemic, as Next City has previously reported, mediations were free and voluntary. Since then, as the pandemic has thrown thousands of families into financial distress, the city made eviction mediation a mandatory step before an eviction.

Of the nearly 2,000 households who have completed mediation, over 90% have avoided an eviction, the Philly Voice adds.The decision to extend mediation comes in light of the city’s end to the eviction moratorium, which expired on July 1.

Landlord-tenant mediation programs are growing in popularity since the start of the pandemic; earlier this month Palm Beach County reported that it intercepted and mediated 450 eviction cases.

Houston Renters Band Together Under New Tenants Union

Following months of living in unsafe conditions, more than 100 renters at the Villas de Paseo complex in Houston held a 71-day rent strike to bargain for habitable homes, the Houston Chronicle reports.

The tenants withheld rent with the support of the relatively new Houston Tenants Union, which formed in 2019. The tenants’ decision to strike came after their landlord, Comuna Property Management, ignored more than a dozen repair requests with tenants citing black mold, leaks and lack of access to running water as grievances.

Texas law strongly favors landlords as they are free to evict tenants who do not pay rent, even if the tenants are withholding rent to demand repairs to an uninhabitable apartment. Property values have also risen during the pandemic, with affordable housing difficult to find.

North Carolina Bill Puts Due Process for Hotel Tenants at Risk

A North Carolina bill could potentially put people who use hotels and motels as a primary residence at risk, The Charlotte Observer reports.

The bill proposes calling those who have been living in a hotel for less than 90 days “transient occupants,” instead of tenants, a decision that would allow hotel owners to remove people without due process.

Sponsors for the bill claim the hotel industry could use this law to remove people who commit crimes from the premises.

Housing advocates, however, argue that this bill has the potential to dislodge an already vulnerable population of people who have been affected by the pandemic and are living in a hotel or motel as a last resort. Many may lack enough money for a security deposit, or have credit issues that make it difficult to find a home, the Charlotte Observer adds.

Juan Hernandez, an attorney from the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy contends, “Instead of having to go to court and ensuring that the tenant has their due process respected, the motel owner can just call the police and say ‘There’s a trespasser, they’ve been here for two months. I want them taken out’… Once that protection isn’t there for people who use that as their main home, it’s going to create more homelessness, immediately.”

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and journalism in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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Tags: philadelphiacovid-19houstonunionsevictionshousing solutionsnorth carolina

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