HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is reiterating that the governor won’t extend Pennsylvania’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures now that it has ended.
Wolf’s office said it had explored the possibility that it could build off the Federal Housing Administration’s extension of its national moratorium protecting homeowners with FHA-insured single family mortgages. But they have since determined the governor can’t extend his executive order to protect people who aren’t benefiting from the federal moratorium.
.@GovernorTomWolf today was joined by legislators and advocates to urge the General Assembly to quickly pass legislation to protect homeowners and renters from evictions and foreclosures and to fix a state program to help more Pennsylvanians.https://t.co/139yyE4ACY
— Office of the Governor (@GovernorsOffice) September 1, 2020
His office says lawmakers now need to act to extend it. He held a news conference Tuesday morning, calling for action.
Gov. Wolf said in a news release, “Pennsylvanians shouldn’t lose their homes or have to worry about a place to live because of the financial hardships caused by COVID-19. Pennsylvanians are making sacrifices to fight this pandemic, but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them. I’ve paused evictions for nearly four months, but now we need legislation. I urge the General Assembly to immediately pass a moratorium on evictions and fix flaws in a rent relief program so more people can get the help they need.”
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Gov. Wolf signed executive order protections on May 7 and July 9. However, that most recent July order ended last night, Aug. 31 at midnight.
According to the Governor’s Office, “the state’s Emergency Services Code does not allow the governor to provide further relief related to temporary housing,” which is why action is needed from state legislators.
The governor is calling for these changes:
• Raise the $750 monthly cap on rent relief to at least 130% of HUD limits – In some parts of the state rent payments exceed $750 a month, therefore landlords decline to participate, leaving tenants without payment assistance.
• Eliminate the requirement that households be 30 days behind on rent to be eligible for assistance – The requirement creates an unfair burden on applicants who prioritize rent and mortgage payments over paying for food, medicine or other bills.
• Eliminate verification that applicants applied for unemployment compensation – The added administrative step creates unnecessary processing delays of applications and availability of assistance.
• Provide landlords and mortgagees the option to forgive the remaining unpaid rent or mortgage payments or allow the balance to be repaid over one year – Offering property owners to recoup balance of payments should encourage participation in the program.
Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman released this statement in response to Gov. Wolf’s call to legislators.
“Gov. Wolf has ignored the law and acted by fiat for the last six months. It is curious now that he is searching for the limits of his authority as an excuse to pass the buck to the General Assembly over the crisis he created for both property owners and renters.
“Instead of telling the General Assembly how to do its job and what bills to pass, Gov. Wolf should instead work with us to reopen Pennsylvania’s economy, get those struggling to pay their bills back to work safely, and restore some sense of normalcy to the people of the Commonwealth.”
Housing advocates predict a rush to Pennsylvania courthouses and a wave of evictions now that the moratorium has expired.
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