Philadelphia's rental housing crisis: Where do we stand now? - Generocity Philly

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Mar. 8, 2021 9:12 am

Philadelphia’s rental housing crisis: Where do we stand now?

Guest columnist Paige Carlson-Heim writes about how TD Charitable Foundation is working with Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and ACHIEVEability to propose solutions to the eviction crisis.

Fire escapes on a building on Broad Street.

(Photo by Saad Prak on Unsplash)

This column was written by Paige Carlson-Heim, director of the TD Charitable Foundation.
In passing the first anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the privileged among us, many facets of life have shifted to a ‘new normal’ and our attention has understandably shifted to questions of when and how we can get our vaccines, when our children will get back to school and activities full time, and when we will return to offices or be able to travel freely once again.

Far too many of our neighbors, on the other hand, are staring down a long, dark tunnel — no light in sight yet. If anything, their lives are in more danger now than they’ve ever been.

According to a new report from Moody’s Analytics and the Urban Institute, more than one in six renters in the US — or three times the typical rate — are behind on their rent payments and in danger of being evicted. This despite moratoriums on eviction through the end of March 2021. To put that into perspective, approximately seven million households lost their homes in foreclosure during the five darkest years of the global financial crisis (2008-2012). Today, we have 10 million families facing a similar fate over a matter of months. [Averting an Eviction Crisis, Jim Parrot/Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics, January 2021]

With more than $57 billion owed to landlords across America, the question of how to support both sides remains outstanding. Those who contribute to this alarming number are more likely to “be lower income, less educated, Black and with children,” according to the analysis.

Here in Pennsylvania, we find ourselves among the 13 states where renters are most distressed by delinquent rent — statewide more than 19% of renting households are behind. We know that COVID has hit our low-wealth communities of color with a vengeance, causing them to become sicker than those in other communities, to lose their jobs more often than those in other communities and, now, to face the threat of eviction in greater numbers than those in other communities.

In the newly released Philadelphia Renters Report (COVID-19’s Impact on Race and Housing Security Across Philadelphia), a study commissioned by Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia, the data tell us that these impacts are even more intensely realized here.

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The study reveals that Black residents account for 47% of all COVID-19 deaths in Philadelphia and across all age groups. Moreover, the study’s findings also include an observation that landlords appear to have targeted Black tenants and neighborhoods, having filed to evict nearly 2,800 Black families residing primarily in North and West Philadelphia between March and December 2020.

The study goes on to point out that of those renters studied, 10% more are behind on their rent than before the pandemic began, and that they are, on average, two months behind. Nearly 25% have been forced to move at least once over the past year.  What is very telling is the impact of such instability on the ability of these individuals and families to access needed healthcare, employment and other social safety net services, largely because they lack a stable address.

The CLS report concludes that for vulnerable groups such as renters, there is a gap in services to help when hardships are encountered. “When renters lose a safety net or resource, whether it’s housing, employment, childcare, or transportation, they’re forced to spend their time differently, oftentimes scrambling to make up for the loss.” In order to catch up in back rent or utility payments, renters often create greater debt.

If people cannot pay their rent and if landlords cannot sustain the ongoing affordability of their properties, what will become of the vibrant and diverse neighborhoods of this great city?

At TD Bank, we care deeply about the welfare of the communities where we live and work. For this reason, last October we announced the TD Charitable Foundation Housing for Everyone Competition. Today, I am thrilled to share that we will be directing $400,000 in grants to support to two Philadelphia community partners who are proposing solutions to the eviction crisis facing residents in two of the hardest hit communities:

  • Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation for their Family Assistance for Recovery and Equity Initiative which will provide direct rental assistance, case management, and supportive services to low-income renters in Philadelphia who have been impacted by job cuts due to the pandemic and recession. PCDC will leverage their cultural capacity and rental support experience to implement this two-year program, aimed at serving more than 800 vulnerable immigrant community members.
  • ACHIEVEability for their Connect Program to provide vulnerable low- to moderate-income West Philadelphians with emergency rental assistance, as well as other wraparound supportive services to ensure that they remain stably housed especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

By creating flexibility for our partners, the Housing for Everyone competition reduces the burden of proof for hundreds of families in need and reintroduces humanity into the process of seeking help during this unprecedented time. Support from the TD Charitable Foundation only requires proof of unpaid rent for those seeking assistance with our partners.

In addition, TD Charitable Foundation dollars will provide critical supportive services including job opportunities, childcare and education resources, and health resources.

Since 2019, the TD Charitable Foundation has provided more than $1 million in support to community partners providing relief and/or housing for renters in Philadelphia. In addition to directing support to our Philadelphia partners fighting to keep individuals safely in their rental homes, we will be similarly partnering with 30 more organizations from Maine to Florida to provide direct rental relief and supportive services in this fight against mass eviction.

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of Housing for Everyone, the TD Charitable Foundation increased the total amount of grants to be awarded by 30%, from $3.75 million to $4.9 million across the nation. Grants ranging from $125,000 – $250,000 were awarded to organizations working to help COVID-impacted households remain in safe, affordable rental units.

The Housing for Everyone grants directly align with the TD Ready Commitment, the bank’s corporate citizenship program. The TD Ready Commitment seeks to help people feel more confident, not just about their finances, but about their future. It is driven by a central belief that together we can help build inclusive futures where everyone has the opportunity to succeed in a changing world.

As part of the TD Ready Commitment, TD targets $775 million in total by 2030 toward community giving in four areas critical to improving financial wellness and building an inclusive tomorrow —Financial Security, a more Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health.

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For more information about TTD Ready Commitment, click here. .

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