“I am taking this action to help families know they will have a roof over their heads and a place to live while all of us fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed a new executive order Thursday that will protect renters and homeowners from evictions and foreclosures through Aug. 31.
Those protections were originally scheduled to expire on July 10. Wolf implemented the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in May to prevent what officials feared would be a drastic increase in the number of people needing emergency housing assistance.
The new order protects renters and homeowners from eviction or foreclosure if they have not already received assistance from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) or other foreclosure moratorium programs. Lenders and property owners who received funds through the PHFA agree to not pursue foreclosure or evictions as a condition for being enrolled in the program.
“I am taking this action to help families know they will have a roof over their heads and a place to live while all of us fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wolf said in a statement. “It takes one more burden off of people who are struggling and ensures that families can remain in their homes so they can protect their health and wellbeing.”
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On Wednesday, a coalition of 55 advocacy groups sent a letter to Wolf, urging him to extend the moratorium indefinitely, warning of a “massive wave” of evictions and homelessness if it is allowed to lapse.
“Housing is health care, and housing is a human right. In the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic, the ability to shelter and be safe at home is lifesaving, something that shouldn’t be reserved just for those wealthy enough to continue paying rent,” wrote the coalition. “As the statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire, thousands of poor and working class families are at risk of being left unhoused, especially Black and brown families who already face much higher mortality rates from COVID-19.”
The coalition, led by Make the Road Pennsylvania, includes organizations focused on housing, labor, racial justice, health care, and other social justice issues from across the Commonwealth.
According to the coalition, 32% of households in Pennsylvania rent their homes, which totals more than 1.58 million households.
“The risk of homelessness remains for countless Pennsylvanian who have struggled to afford housing long before the pandemic and find it even harder to do so now, after losing their jobs,” the coalition explained in its letter. “In Allentown and Reading, where 60% of households are renters, a third of renters pay more than half their income in rent, qualifying as ‘severely rent-burdened’ according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
The issue, of course, is not one-sided. The Wolf administration finds itself caught between renters who fear losing their homes during an economic crisis and landlords who still have expenses to pay on their buildings.
Landlords have been waging a legal fight against the moratorium, saying they are hard-pressed to keep up with taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance and mortgage payments without the ability to enforce lease agreements.
Philadelphia, for instance, is facing a lawsuit from the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia in federal court arguing that the Emergency Housing Protection act amounts to taking the property of landlords, according to WHYY.
The court has yet to rule in the case.