Legislators are urging more financial help for Pennsylvania renters  

As tenants continue to struggle, rents are going up and faster than inflation.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- More relief could soon be coming to Pennsylvania renters and landlords. Legislators are calling for millions of dollars to be put into the state's depleted Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

"Our proposal is asking simply for $500 million to go into the rental assistance program," said Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes, (D) 7th District.

During the pandemic, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program kept tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians in their homes.

Unfortunately, Keysha Hartman of Philadelphia's Olney section did not see any money from the program.

"Very frustrated because that's something you look forward to as far as help," she said.

Last month, counties shut down applications when federal funding ran out, even though in Philadelphia alone, more than 50,000 applications like Hartman's were pending.

"These are 53,200 households that are in danger of losing their homes, families of losing their communities, losing their possessions, losing everything," said Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval, (D) 1st District.

As tenants continue to struggle, rents are going up and faster than inflation.

Our 6abc data journalist found the typical rent in Philadelphia is now $1,755 a month, up 10% in just a year.

"So it's just like, where do I go from here," said Hartman.

Legislation is now calling for the state to move $500 million from the American Rescue Plan into the Rental Assistance Program.

And there is new help already available to Philadelphia renters, thanks to the Right to Counsel program, which provides free lawyers to tenants at risk of eviction.

"So the goal of the program is to empower and educate tenants about their rights and offer them legal representation as they go through the legal process," said Kadeem Morris of Community Legal Services.

The initial rollout is for low-income tenants in zip codes 19121 and 19139. Housing advocates say programs like Right to Counsel are making a difference.

"We have reduced evictions by 75% two years in a row," said Philadelphia City Councilmember-at-large Helen Gym (D). "We have reduced case delays and landlord tenant court from 90 days down to 30 days."

For more information:

Right to Counsel Central Hotline: 267-443-2500
Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project
Rental Assistance Program
Community Legal Services' Right to Counsel
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