This city's eviction diversion program is showing success

The program provides targeted financial support for people at risk of losing a place to live because of nonpayment.
Posted at 2:57 PM, Sep 19, 2023

Eviction rates across the country have returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to research from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. However, Philadelphia is bucking the trend. It went from around 20,000 evictions in 2019 to 15,000 in the last 12 months. 

The city credits an eviction diversion program for the success. 

Courtnee Dean utilized the program as she was trying to juggle a family, numerous household bills and running a business. 

"Just putting money into my business and still being able to take care of my kids, I fell behind," she said. 

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"A lot of times, they're paying late fees every single month because they're never getting current," said Jon Walheim, Dean's landlord.

Before a landlord can file for eviction, they must go through mediation with their tenant or see if the tenant qualifies for financial assistance. The city says nearly three-quarters of those who enter the program avoid eviction, at least temporarily. 

"The most common reason that someone files for eviction is due to nonpayment of rent," said Mark Dodds, who oversees the program. "So we're really trying to get at the heart of that by providing targeted financial assistance for those who qualify." 

Those who believe in eviction prevention say it starts with removing stigma, which the program in Philadelphia aims to do.

"Once you get a filing on your record, it doesn't get expunged. It's there and that will hurt your ability to get housing going forward," Dodds said. "We don't want that to happen."