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Addressing the growing rental crisis in Philadelphia

October 23, 2020 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose


This guest column was written by Paige Carlson-Heim, director of the TD Charitable Foundation.
According to the most recent U.S. Census, Philadelphia County has the highest poverty rate in the state of Pennsylvania.

While most counties in the metro area have a poverty rate of 6%, Philadelphia County sits at around 24%, and the number of Philadelphians falling into poverty shows no signs of slowing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, as a result of the crisis, the number of Philadelphians applying for unemployment has risen steeply in recent months, according to the most recent federal figures. Many of those dealing with job loss are individuals and families who rent and are therefore at risk of eviction. As a Philadelphia resident, I felt a personal, as well as professional conviction to address this looming crisis.

COVID-19-related impacts hurt the most vulnerable

The ongoing impact of COVID-19 has continued to disproportionately affect some of the most vulnerable communities, including renters. Nearly one-third of renters comprise the U.S. employment sectors hardest hit by the pandemic — food, entertainment and retail workers — according to a study published by the Housing Finance Policy Center of the Urban Institute.

There are additional issues faced by Philadelphians, where renters are comprising an increasing share of the city’s housing market. According to a September 2020 report, “The State of Housing Affordability in Philadelphia” published by the Pew Charitable Trusts, three-quarters of the growth in occupied housing units since 2009 has largely been in rentals. Moreover, 54% of the city’s renters are cost-burdened — compared with 28% of homeowners.

54% of the city’s renters are cost-burdened — compared with 28% of homeowners.

From our Partners

As reported in a Generocity article by Lynette Hazelton on August 27, “The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has estimated a need for an additional $100 billion in emergency rental assistance  to forestall a predicted 40 to 45% increase in homelessness by the end of the year.”

With so many Philadelphians living paycheck to paycheck or no longer having a stable source of income, it’s no wonder many are worried they will face eviction just as the weather starts to get colder. And while an eviction moratorium until Spring 2021 has helped forestall the burgeoning housing crisis during the pandemic, it only puts a temporary pause on evictions. Without long-term assistance, renters could be left with significant back due payments and little means to catch up.

Addressing a housing crisis amidst a pandemic

Eviction prevention is a social justice issue which cannot be ignored. COVID-19 has closed schools and businesses, forcing people out of work. It is unfair to force families out of their homes during a public health crisis because they are unable to pay rent.

At TD Charitable Foundation (TD), we want to be part of the solution. We believe that for everyone to have a better future and to achieve financial security, it begins with safe, affordable housing. This is why TD is directing financial support toward local, non-profit housing and social service organizations that provide direct relief and supportive services to  keep renters in their homes via our “Housing for Everyone” annual grant competition.

I learned from my experience running a statewide association of nonprofit housing and community development corporations and as a board member of the Philadelphia Local Initiatives Support Corporation that direct rental assistance, while critical, in and of itself is not enough. Unless their other essential needs are met — childcare, healthcare, job, and financial counseling — people will continue to struggle.

At the TD Charitable Foundation, we believe we are one of a small number of philanthropic organizations working to address the rental housing crisis. TD began its support of renters in pre-pandemic 2019 when Housing for Everyone focused on supporting organizations rehabilitating rental units for families. Last year, in the greater Philadelphia region, we directed $750,000 to organizations refurbishing existing units for our neighbors’ continued access to quality affordable rental housing.

Given the crushing impact of the pandemic on renters this year, the TD Charitable Foundation has increased the total monetary amount of grants available to applicants across our footprint for 2021 by 30%, from $3.75 million up to $4.9 million.

Our commitment to providing rental relief

Now in its 15th year, the TD Charitable Foundation’s annual Housing for Everyone grant competition has awarded over $32 million to support approximately 500 affordable housing initiatives since the program’s inception in 2005. In the Philadelphia area alone, our contribution has amounted to over $3 million through 43 grants.

The goal of this year's competition is to support nonprofits that either design or manage a rental relief program or enhance case management support for renters.

The theme for this year’s competition is direct relief and supportive services for renters affected by COVID-19, with funding directed towards programs that provide access to safe, clean, physically accessible affordable rental housing units and needed wraparound services for families, individuals, the elderly, new Americans, Veterans, the disabled, women and youth.

The goal of this year’s competition is to support nonprofits that either design or manage a rental relief program or enhance case management support for renters. Case management efforts focus on providing additional support as families navigate a number of issues related to the economic instability of a global pandemic including schooling for children, job stability, adult education, debt management and other related issues critical to families’ long-term success while residing in affordable rental units.

Unexpectedly human support

The ongoing pandemic has shuttered businesses, disrupted industries and forced thousands of working Philadelphians to the sidelines.

The TD Charitable Foundation, through the Housing for Everyone grant competition, will direct relief funds to help provide a financial safety net to renters affected by COVID-19, and will also support efforts to establish or continue supportive services for those individuals.

Housing is but one component of TD’s aspiration to create an inclusive, more sustainable future for all. Our social purpose is guided by the TD Ready Commitment, targeting $1 billion by 2030 in four key areas: increasing financial security, expanding better health to underrepresented communities, helping ensure a healthier planet, and building a greater sense of community connectedness.


See more on the initiative on the Housing for Everyone homepage.  The online application and additional information about the Housing for Everyone grant competition is available here. For any questions regarding the competition please contact

Applications for the 2020 Housing for Everyone competition will be accepted until 4 p.m. on November 6.

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