Cephas, Kenyatta and Innamorato hold hearing to discuss plan to help low-income tenants facing eviction amid COVID-19

HARRISBURG, Oct. 9 – In their ongoing efforts to keep people in their homes, state Reps. Morgan Cephas, Malcolm Kenyatta and Sara Innamorato held a public hearing today to discuss legal aid for tenants facing eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three brought members of the House Democratic Policy Committee and experts together to discuss legislation they are introducing to provide legal representation to low-income tenants facing an eviction hearing.

"A study from the Center for American Progress shows nearly 90% of landlords and property managers across the country have access to legal representation compared to just 10% of tenants. And in most eviction cases, tenants without representation lose," said Cephas, D-Phila. "This ultimately comes down to fairness and the need to prevent our most vulnerable neighbors from being tossed out on the street. Our plan aims to connect them with the quality protection they need to help keep a roof over their head, especially during this health crisis."

“The CDC’s moratorium will only stave off evictions until the end of the year, but the threat of a large-scale housing crisis still looms, so we must act now,” said Kenyatta, D-Phila. “During these uncertain and incredibly stressful times in which medical experts are urging everyone to stay at home, Pennsylvanians should be able to take solace in having a home of their own to retreat to. Additionally, looking beyond the pandemic, the current evictions process is rooted in classism and relies heavily on the shortfalls of the most vulnerable, particularly their lack of access to resources and the means to adequately defend themselves. However, our bill aims to equalize the power that’s currently leveraged by landlords and property managers, and ultimately dismantles a system in our housing institution that essentially punishes people who have fallen on hard times by relegating them to homelessness.”

“When the CDC extended a federal eviction moratorium, Pennsylvania narrowly averted a man-made humanitarian crisis – in the midst of a global pandemic. The eviction process has long been in dire need of attention,” Innamorato, D-Allegheny, said. “The outcome of civil cases determines life changing events like if someone stays in their home or keeps their child. Often low-income individuals in need of legal defense in civil cases go without. This disparity leads to unbalanced outcomes. While we are here seeking solutions, I’m a little disappointed that the Republican majority has continued to refuse to even discuss these policy proposals, which would positively impact landlords and renters across this commonwealth.”

Their proposal joins several others in the House Democrats' Stay at Home initiative, aimed at helping renters, homeowners and small "mom and pop" landlords survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other testifiers at today's hearing included the:

  • Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network.
  • Regional Housing Legal Services.
  • Community Legal Services.
  • Philadelphia Bar Association.

The full hearing is available to watch at https://youtu.be/CPUu4-I-NdQ