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Eviction is a crisis in Philadelphia

Housing

Eviction is a crisis in Philadelphia

Date Posted: 
03/07/2017

Philadelphia is the poorest major city in the country, with many residents struggling to balance rising housing costs with utility bills, medical expenses, and other necessities.  More than half of Philadelphia renters are “housing cost-burdened,” spending 30% or more of their incomes on housing expenses. Of the approximately 24,000 eviction actions in Philadelphia Landlord-Tenant court each year, approximately 81% of landlords have legal counsel, while only 8% of tenants are represented.

Because of illiteracy, language barriers, disability, mental health, and other challenges, unrepresented tenants are often unable to navigate the complex legal system. People living in poverty are vulnerable to the threat of homelessness, but with legal representation they may be able to avoid unlawful eviction or obtain assistance so they can pay their rent.

  • When a family is evicted from their home, children are at risk of being put into foster care, falling behind in school, or becoming homeless. When a family is able to stay in their home, children live more stable lives and have a chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty.
  • For homeless women, domestic violence or sexual assault is the main reason for their homelessness. Collateral consequences of experiencing violence can make it difficult to get back into housing, and may cause victims to return to their abusers. Preventing eviction for victims of violence can go a long way towards keeping them and their families safe.
  • The eviction crisis must be addressed in order to further the cause of racial justice. People of color are disproportionately burdened by housing costs and income inequality, leading to a greater chance that they will experience eviction. Preventing eviction for people of color furthers fair housing, reduces displacement from gentrification, and helps overcome patterns of segregation and racial isolation.
  • Preventing eviction stabilizes neighborhoods, prevents blight, and saves money for the city by reducing the collateral costs of homelessness, such as medical expenses, social services, and shelter expenses. It can cost up to $60,000 to put up a family in a shelter, but CLS’ work to keep a family in their home is a fraction of that cost.

Investing in legal services and a right to counsel for tenants is cost effective and is the one of the best measures to prevent evictions, housing instability, and homelessness.

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