240,000 Pa. households facing possible eviction

Investigators

HANOVER, Pa. (WHTM) — Like many Pennsylvanians Christopher Turner and his family are struggling during the pandemic.

“We are facing eviction and being completely destitute,” said Christopher Turner.

He and his fiancé lost their job during the pandemic and also welcomed a new baby. Paying rent for their apartment in Hanover became a problem.

“We kept it up until June and then we couldn’t keep it up anymore. At this point, we owe them $3,400 with the court fees and the late cost. It’s not that I don’t want to pay, it is just that right now we are not able to pay,” said Turner.

“We are hearing this story a lot,” said Phyllis Chamberlain.

Chamberlain is the Executive Director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, which works to increase access to safe and affordable homes for all Pennsylvanians.

“There is an estimate that there are 240,00 households that are at risk of eviction,” said Chamberlain.

How are so many families at risk of eviction when the state set aside 150 million dollars of CARES Act funding for a state Rent Relief Program?

“One of the big problems is that it capped the amount of rent a tenant and therefore a landlord could receive per month. It was a flat $750 per month for 6 months. What landlords were required to do is actually forgive the rest of the rent. There is a lot of landlords who are just not in that position,” said Chamberlain.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency oversees the state’s Cares Rent Relief Program. As of November 1 about 20 million of the 150 million available has been dispersed. The funds must be spent by November 30th.

“It looks like that program will not be fully utilized. It is not because it is not needed but because of program requirements that didn’t make sense. It is quite scary both the number of tenants and landlords who are both in precarious situations right now,” said Chamberlain.

Turner and his family are using the CDC’s moratorium on evictions to stay in their apartment for now, but it expires on January 1. Turner knows others are facing the same deadline.

“These are honest everyday hardworking Americans who are hard up, now we are all looking at being homeless,” said Turner.

“We really need the federal government to step in and both provide additional unemployment benefits and rental assistance,” said Chamberlain. “If we could just provide a little bit of rental assistance to help people pay their rent that is generally much less expensive then how much it cost the government and non-profits to fund a shelter bed.”

Talks at the federal level to provide additional stimulus money have stalled and Chamberlain says there’s is no word of any additional relief at the state level.

If you are facing eviction the Housing Alliance of Pa suggests calling 211 to see what resources are available in your county.

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