COVID-19 is exacerbating our state’s already severe housing crisis. Already prior to this moment, 125,000 Philadelphians paid over half their income in homeownership costs or rent. That number is going to grow dramatically as thousands lose their jobs.

We need immediate action to protect all residents. We also need to take major steps to protect housing insecure people in our city.

Rick and Nikil support the following measures on the state level to stabilize the housing crisis, as well as lay the groundwork for a more just housing future for all of us:

A MORTGAGE AND RENT MORATORIUM: Thousands are going to miss mortgage and rent payments over the next few months. Though the courts are not processing evictions, and many Sheriff’s offices are not processing foreclosures, many of us will face late fees and plummeting credit scores for nonpayment, and eviction and foreclosure when the moratorium ends. We need to stop all of these: No payments. No late fees. No debt.

Pennsylvania’s Governor should enact an immediate mortgage forbearance program, modeled on the existing HEMAP program. It should also require that any landlord using the program be forbidden to charge rent or file for eviction. Such a program would cover most renters, homeowners and landlords, and forgive rent for millions.

Following the end of the moratorium, Pennsylvania should enact a freeze on rent increases for six months.

EXTENDING THE EVICTION MORATORIUM: By Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, there is a moratorium on all eviction hearings and lockouts through April 3, 2020. It is clear by now that the public health risk will not have abated significantly—and may worsen—in the next two weeks such that the courts could safely reopen. This moratorium must be extended for 12 months past the end of the state of emergency.

UTILITY SHUT OFF MORATORIUM: Pennsylvania associations—and their utility regulators, public power and water utility boards—should take immediate steps to implement a moratorium on all gas, electricity, and water utility shut-offs, waiver of all late-payment charges, and reinstitution of any services that have already been cut off due to nonpayment for at least one year past the end of the COVID-19 crisis.

DIRECT ASSISTANCE: Pennsylvania should appropriate funds to provide direct assistance to Pennsylvania families in the forms of a rent subsidy, modeled on Philadelphia’s shallow rent subsidy: up to $500/month per person per household, and security deposit assistance to tenants to enable them to retain or find safe, decent housing. We should also expand rapid rehousing programs across the state.