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Housing

How Philadelphia Plans to Beat the Looming Eviction Cliff

A novel eviction intervention started during the pandemic could be a model for curbing housing loss. 

Demonstrators in Philadelphia march from City Hall to the Municipal Court to protest against evictions in September 2020. A city program started during the pandemic has thwarted hundreds of evictions. 

Demonstrators in Philadelphia march from City Hall to the Municipal Court to protest against evictions in September 2020. A city program started during the pandemic has thwarted hundreds of evictions. 

Photographer: Rachel Wisniewksi/Bloomberg

Corrected

Late on Friday before the weekend of the July 4 holiday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its initial findings on federal rent relief. The news was grim: Through the end of May, states had spent on average just 4% of their allotment of nearly $47 billion in emergency rental assistance funds authorized by Congress. Cities and counties have done only a little better, at 13%. With the federal eviction moratorium expiring at the end of July, time is running out for renters in dire straits.

Like other cities, Philadelphia is racing to get the money out the door. Some 35,000 renters have applied for emergency relief, and as of the beginning of July, local housing officials have approved 16% of the applications. It’s an open question whether Philadelphia can meet looming deadlines for spending portions of the money or hold out beyond the lapse of emergency protections.