Officials moving forward with ban on evictions in Pittsburgh during covid pandemic

Tom Davidson, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·2 min read

Feb. 23—Pittsburgh City Council members are moving forward with legislation to prevent evictions in the city during the covid-19 pandemic.

At its committee hearing on Wednesday, council will further discuss the ordinance that puts into place a moratorium on evictions as long as the city's pandemic emergency is in place. It was introduced by Councilwoman Deb Gross, who drafted the legislation with help from several other city officials.

The ordinance is co-sponsored by council members Anthony Coghill, R. Daniel Lavelle, Bobby Wilson, Bruce Kraus and Corey O'Connor.

"We all know it is an increasing problem at the worst possible moment," Gross said.

Before council fast-tracked the legislation to a committee meeting, several residents and community activists with the Pittsburgh Union of Regional Renters spoke about the importance of the law.

Only one, Oakland attorney Matthew Fineman, spoke about the importance of balancing the ban on evictions with aid for landlords.

"There must be protections in the plan for both sides," Fineman said.

The others who spoke talked about the moral necessity of protecting people who are facing a financial crush caused by covid with the added worry of becoming homeless.

"We believe housing is a human right," Jennifer Lines, a volunteer with the Pittsburgh Union of Regional Renters, told council.

Facing eviction during the pandemic is a death sentence, Lines said.

Joy Sabl, a landlord who lives in Point Breeze, said even those who appear to be undeserving of being protected from eviction because they are bad tenants should be given those protections now.

"It is not a time to displace anybody," Sabl said.

Allegheny County courts, like others in Pennsylvania, have had a moratorium in place since March 2020 that expires Friday, but even with the moratorium there are 215 proceedings from the city that are moving through the court system, Gross said.

Passing the law will protect people from entering the eviction process and it gives them time to enroll in a program expected to start March 1 to provide $27 million in rental assistance through a program administered by the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority in partnership with Action Housing and Dollar Energy.

For details about that program, click here.

"We are providing the cash end" through this program, Gross said.

There's paperwork involved, Gross said, but she advised landlords and tenants to participate because the assistance provides money to landlords who are also suffering financial losses because of past-due rent.

A similar program helped 1,000 people last year, 790 of whom had children, Gross said.

"The administration was happy to work with Councilwoman Gross on this important legislation, and looks forward to further council debate on Wednesday," Tim McNulty, Mayor Bill Peduto's spokesman, said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, or via Twitter .