HARRISBURG, PA − March 23, 2021 − New legislation introduced by Senators Katie Muth (D–Montgomery/Chester/Berks), Steve Santarsiero (D–Bucks), and Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia) will ensure Pennsylvanians are able to stay safely housed for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and economically secure throughout the recovery period that follows. The Housing Security Act (Senate Bill 466) creates a framework for mortgage deferment and rent forgiveness, benefitting property owners and renters alike.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed so many significant gaps in our social safety net, and one of the most significant has been housing insecurity,” said Senator Muth. “Even before the pandemic, so many in our Commonwealth were forced to make impossible decisions between food, medicine, and paying the rent or the mortgage. This is unacceptable, and we must take action now to ensure that every Pennsylvanian has safe, affordable, and secure housing no matter where they live.”
“Housing is a basic human right that too many Pennsylvanians are at risk of losing due to economic hardship at the hands of the pandemic,” said Senator Santarsiero. “We must take steps to protect the families and individuals at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure or eviction. No one deserves to face homeless due to unforeseen financial adversity, especially during a global health crisis, and the Housing Security Act will alleviate that threat for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.”
The Housing Security Act would function on two fronts: first, creating a means to protect homeowners and property owners, and then building a path for the extension of these important protections to renters.
This bill would mandate that mortgage servicers develop deferment programs to suspend property owners’ obligations to pay their mortgages for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency declaration and for the six months that immediately follow it. Rather than forcing a participant to make a huge lump sum payment at the end of the deferment period, the term of the borrower’s mortgage would be extended for the same number of months that they participated in the deferment program. All late fees, processing fees, and services fees would be waived.
Landlords participating in the deferment program would be required to reduce their tenants’ rent during the time that they participate in the program, in an amount proportional to the amount of mortgage payment deferred.
“The magnitude of the housing emergency in our Commonwealth cannot be overstated. As elected officials, we know that evictions and foreclosures damage the health and vitality of families for generations,” said Senator Saval. “As eviction and foreclosure moratoria expire, a tsunami of houselessness, utility shutoffs, and debt is predicted to crash upon the backs of those who are most vulnerable. This future harm is often spoken of as a forgone conclusion, but legislators can take real action, right now, to prevent this from becoming our reality.”
The full text of the Housing Security Act is available on request.