“Narrowing the Gap” is an actionable strategy initiative from the Philadelphia City Council to urgently address and solve issues related to poverty in Philadelphia. More than 25% of the population of Philadelphia faces issues related to poverty. That staggering number is the impetus for the Philadelphia City Council to take strong actions to develop policies and programs to help residents rise from poverty, particularly focused on the areas of housing; jobs and education; and the social safety net.
Government is not the only catalyst for change. Private companies also have a meaningful role in making Philadelphia a better place to live. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been an integral part of Post Brothers since the company’s inception. Post Brothers also is a leader in establishing ESG (environmental, social, and governance) standards that are the envy of the industry.
Post Brothers constructed the first LEED-certified residential highrise in Philadelphia, the company is the largest private buyer of wind-generated electricity in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, we take pride in winning awards for being one of the Best Places to Work in Philadelphia and are perhaps most proud of our ongoing efforts to make affordable luxury apartments for rent in Philadelphia for many people for whom such apartments were previously out of reach.
The development of new commercial real estate projects, residential condominiums
As discussed last month in our Blog, the City Council proposed several innovative solutions that will attempt to alleviate poverty in Philadelphia through either existing programs/policies or the enactment of new ones.
Here are some of the suggestions that came out of the City Council’s brainstorming sessions:
Increase Access to Counsel in Housing Court
Many tenants facing eviction can’t afford their homes, much less qualified counsel during their court appearances. $500,000 from last year’s budget was earmarked to help these tenants with counsel, but it’s not enough. If more resources could be provided to these tenants as they contest their evictions, destabilization of the housing market could be prevented.
Require Advanced Notification for Eviction
The lack of data in regards to evictions is troubling. Currently, tenants can be evicted simply by receiving notice from their landlord, and then the tenant must go to court to contest the eviction. However, data on these individuals facing eviction is not present; if it was, then programs and services could reach out to them to help them avoid eviction. For example, data needs to be collected on people who are at-risk for eviction, or are housing insecure. To combat this issue, the City could make it a requirement that landlords obtain the proper rental licenses. Once a tenant is identified as at-risk for eviction, other programs could step in to help or help them relocate.
Support Relocation Efforts for Tenants
Housing insecurity destabilizes households. Many issues related to housing insecurity is because of the tenant’s failure to pay rent; but, many other cases are “no-fault” meaning the housing is unsafe, or there was a fire which required the tenant to move out. It’s difficult for these no-fault tenants to secure new housing, particularly when 2-3 months worth of rent is needed upfront. Programs and services can be expanded or implemented to assist these tenants who face eviction through no fault of their own.
Fair Chance Housing
Legislation for fair chance housing should be passed to help the population with a criminal record gain secure housing. While the Federal Fair Housing Act ensures a lack of housing discrimination, it does not protect those who have spent time in the criminal justice system. With specific legislation passed to address this population, then landlords would not be able to prohibit people (with the exception of sex offenders) from renting a housing unit.
Improve and Stabilize Rent and Rental Units
Fifty-three percent of renters in Philadelphia spend over one-third of their income on housing. This is an astronomically high rate. By implementing a grant program, the City could help landlords improve their rental properties to ensure they are safe for tenants. Then, the landlords would be restricted in the amount of rent they charge.
There are many ways that housing can be more equitable in Philadelphia. These ideas from the Philadelphia City Council could impact the lives of many Philadelphia residents who face homelessness or housing insecurity.