HARRISBURG – January 4, 2021 – State Senators Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) and Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) were joined by State Representatives Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia) and Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny) in a call to extend eviction and foreclosure protection in Pennsylvania.
The legislation proposed by Sens. Hughes and Saval would prevent evictions and foreclosures for 60 days after Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration has expired. The governor extended the disaster declaration Nov. 25, 2020, and has the power to extend the declaration 90 days; meaning the earliest the declaration could expire is Feb 23, 2021.
“Our highest priority on this issue should be to ensure those hit hardest by the pandemic are able to stay in their homes and have peace of mind knowing they will not be evicted during this ongoing crisis,” Sen. Hughessaid. “The reality is we must act now in Pennsylvania to protect our people and provide relief to thousands of Pennsylvanians at risk of losing their homes at the end of the month. Those who have lost income, through no fault of their own, should not be held responsible for inadequate leadership at the federal level and an unwillingness from the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to provide adequate assistance to help stabilize the lives of millions of Americans.”
Recognizing that evictions and foreclosures ruin the economic security of families for the long term, the legislators will renew efforts to ensure renters and homeowners will not lose their homes and that the Commonwealth is prepared for long-term recovery. More than 240,000 Pennsylvanians are at risk of losing their homes on Jan. 31, 2021. To leave people without housing during a worsening pandemic is unconscionable and compounds the twin public health crises of COVID-19 and houselessness. Forcing people from their homes will lead to the spread of the virus throughout communities, and accordingly, cause unnecessary and preventable suffering and death.
“Keeping people in their homes should be considered a baseline obligation of government,” Sen. Saval said. “The health of our society is inextricably linked with healthy housing. Evictions and foreclosures disrupt families and perpetuate intergenerational trauma and poverty. When we bring this pandemic under control, life will not instantaneously return to normal. This is why our legislation calls for evictions and foreclosures to be stalled until 60 days after our Governor ends his emergency declaration.”
Similar legislation to the senators’ proposal has been offered in the house by Rep. Fiedler, Rep. Innamoratoand Rep. Summer Lee (D-Allegheny). The legislators’ focus is on protecting public health and ensuring the crisis does not hurt already vulnerable populations that were struggling before the pandemic.
“Many people take for granted that they have a safe, warm place to call home; to eat, sleep, work, and learn. But for the thousands of Pennsylvanians on the verge of eviction or foreclosure, it’s a question that weighs heavily on their minds every day,” Rep. Fiedler said. “People deserve to live without the constant fear of upheaval and homelessness. I am proud to be fighting alongside my colleagues in the House and Senate on behalf of people across the state. Every single person deserves the safety and security of a home.”
Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Democratic caucuses have fought to extend protections throughout the pandemic as a means of protecting public health. The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health estimated that expiring eviction and foreclosure moratoria could lead to 400,000 excess COVID-19 cases and over 10,000 excess deaths.
Rep. Innamorato noted that in the most recent census data, 691,033 Pennsylvanians indicated that they are not current on rent or mortgage payments or have slight or no confidence that their household can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.
“If these evictions can proceed, it will cause a tremendous amount of pain to our neighbors, inflict further lasting damage to our economy, and result in a more rapid spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” added Rep. Innamorato. “Our first step is to keep people in their homes with a strong eviction moratorium while we work to create policies that treat housing as a basic human right and less like a commodity.”
The Democratic legislators pointed to research that shows keeping people in their homes is having a profound effect in stabilizing the nation’s existing housing crisis. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the federal foreclosure moratorium, forbearance plans, and stimulus payments have resulted in foreclosure rates that were lower in the second quarter of 2020 than anytime over the last two decades.
The legislators were joined by advocates from Community Legal Services and from the Housing Alliance of Philadelphia.
Fredrica Lightford, a long-time tenants’ rights advocate and organizer, participated in the event as well. Lightford spoke of the urgency and the importance of continuing the moratoria on evictions and foreclosures.
“Every tenant should feel safe and secure in their home, especially during this pandemic,” said Lightford. “Facing eviction is an all-consuming nightmare in the best of times; more so now. It is a matter of life and death. All tenants have rights, and to live safely within their homes is always one of those rights. No one should be concerned or in fear of being uprooted during these strange times.”