April 11, 2022
Kirstin Snow, firstname.lastname@example.org, (215) 510-9336
Jodi Hirsh, email@example.com, (412) 326-9832
Melissa McCleery, firstname.lastname@example.org, (484) 201-3778
NEW REPORT: Affordable Rental Housing After the Pandemic
Where families stand now and what the legislature can do about it
Harrisburg — Pennsylvania faced a pre-pandemic housing affordability problem, but the crisis has made matters worse. This new report takes a look at who Pennsylvania’s renters are, who was housing cost-burdened before the pandemic, and the number of people at risk of eviction now.
Report author, Kehinde Akande, policy fellow at the PA Budget and Policy Center, summarized the report’s findings, “The two main takeaways are that eviction mitigation is working to keep people in their homes and it should be expanded, and a permanent rental assistance fund is needed in the state for the large numbers of cost-burdened families in Pennsylvania.”
The report features stories of people who applied for rental assistance and their experiences including, Celia of Reading, who was unable to receive assistance due to the administrative rules of the funding, and Ryan from Allegheny County who successfully worked with Brandywine Communities to receive assistance to stay in his home after being unable to work full-time for many months. Read their stories in the report here.
Many community-based organizations worked with residents through the pandemic to help them apply for assistance and their experiences with those residents have guided their policy recommendations. Make the Road Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh United specified their hopes for this session of the legislature.
Said Celia Mocada, member leader of Make the Road Pennsylvania, “As the single parent of a child with serious illness, I’ve been forced to choose between work and family, food and rent, with no support. As an immigrant woman, I can’t receive any of the basic benefits like food stamps or WIC, and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program was designed to support struggling families like mine. But the requirement for landlords to participate in the application process prevented us from being considered for the aid we really need to cover our rent. A permanent, more accessible rent relief program and eviction moratorium will help more struggling families like me avoid eviction and homeless.”
“The Emergency Rental Assistance Program in Allegheny County kept thousands of families in their homes during dual public health and economic crises. The County set up critical infrastructure for the program and distributed assistance quickly and equitably. Without ERAP, countless local families will face imminent eviction. The families who will be hurt have young children or are elderly or ill—all will be displaced if we don’t continue to make ERAP available. We must do everything we can to prevent the pending disaster of mass evictions and keep our residents housed,” said Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, executive director of Pittsburgh United.
Click here to see the Allegheny County ERAP dashboard to view the aid they were able to distribute: https://www.alleghenycountyanalytics.us/index.php/2021/06/23/allegheny-county-covid-19-emergency-rental-assistance-program-dashboard/.
The report lays out policy recommendations for the legislature, and affordable housing advocates outlined their priorities for this year to help move those recommendations forward.
“As the pandemic swept across our country and our systems began to buckle under the enormity of the need, eviction diversion and rental assistance were lights guiding us toward a world in which government was operating as it should: creating a safety net capable of catching our people when we needed it the most,” said Senator Nikil Saval. “I led the efforts for statewide eviction diversion and for additional resources for rental assistance, and I’m committed to winning these policies for all Pennsylvanians. I’m incredibly grateful for the work of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in so thoroughly examining the quantitative and qualitative data that support these solutions to the ongoing harm wrought by COVID-19 and by our current housing crisis, which predates the pandemic and is decades in the making.”
“Safe, healthy, and affordable housing is a basic need for all people to thrive. However, Wall Street firms are buying up homes to return profits to their investors, at the expense of working families who lose achieve the American Dream of home-ownership,” Rep. Innamorato said. “With pandemic housing programs either ending or over, and pandemic-related pains ongoing, more and more of our neighbors are living paycheck-to-paycheck are falling behind and are in danger of losing their homes and the stability that brings. The legislature has the power to act, today, to take steps to address the housing crisis and help our neighbors with what they need most—a place to call home.”
Rep. Fiedler added her support for the policy recommendations saying, “This report makes clear that the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, enacted during the pandemic, was an incredible success: it prevented a tsunami of evictions over the last two years. The report also makes clear that there was a housing crisis in Pennsylvania before the pandemic, and there remains a housing crisis even as we exit the worst of the pandemic. Creating a permanent rental assistance fund will ensure that our neighbors keep a roof over their head[s], that children can stay focused on school, and their parents can get to work. Housing is a human right!”
Many thousands of Pennsylvanians currently have precarious living situations—facing housing insecurity due to insufficient wages, underemployment, the ever-increasing cost of rent, and long waitlists for housing assistance. In many states, including Pennsylvania, rental relief funds are running out. In some counties, like Berks and Philadelphia, aid has been completely depleted. In other counties, much of the aid remains unused. Also, local counties have begun to receive redistributed rental relief money since January of this year. All the while, individuals and families across Pennsylvania continue to be at risk of eviction.
Pennsylvania faced a pre-pandemic housing affordability problem, but the crisis has made matters worse. In this report, we look at who Pennsylvania’s renters are, who was housing cost-burdened before the pandemic, and the number of people at risk of eviction now. The report examines critical social policies put in place to protect renters at risk—namely, housing moratoriums and rental relief programs.
Read the report here to see detailed findings and policy recommendations.
PA Budget and Policy Center – https://krc-pbpc.org/
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) is a nonpartisan, statewide policy research project of the Keystone Research Center that provides independent, credible analysis of state tax, budget, and related policy matters with attention to the impact of policy proposals on working individuals and families.
Make the Road Pennsylvania – https://www.maketheroadpa.org/
Make the Road Pennsylvania is the largest Latinx organization in the state of Pennsylvania. With 10,000 members, we are dedicated to organizing the working class in Latinx communities, building power for justice. to achieve the respect and dignity that every human being deserves. We commit to developing and expanding the leadership and power that is already present in our communities.
Pittsburgh United – https://pittsburghunited.org/
Pittsburgh United is a coalition of community, labor, faith, and environmental organizations committed to advancing the vision of a community and economy that works for all people.