Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg bans evictions for another month, hopes to combat homelessness during COVID

A sign on N. 3rd and Kelker streets.

Harrisburg residents behind on rent due to the pandemic can take a deep breath once again.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced today that he would extend the city’s ban on evictions for another 30 days into mid-March.

“It is important that we continue this eviction moratorium for the health and safety of our residents during these difficult times,” Papenfuse said in a statement.

This is the second extension the mayor has enacted since the original eviction moratorium declaration on Dec. 16. The first extension took place on Jan. 16.

Under the moratorium, no resident can be evicted for non-payment of rent or lease expiration. This does not include eviction for other reasons, such as property damage or criminal activity.

“We don’t want to make a homelessness situation worse. We don’t want to make it harder for people to have safe and reasonable shelter in the midst of a pandemic,” Papenfuse said on Friday during his weekly “Community Conversations” on Facebook Live.

The original order was adopted after city officials found that there likely would be hundreds of people facing eviction at the start of 2021, since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. They predicted that there would not be enough shelter space for the increased number of homeless residents. The CDC’s order has since been extended until March 31.

Harrisburg’s declaration gives the city the power to fine non-complying landlords up to $10,000 or 90 days in jail.

There hasn’t been a situation in which the city had to punish a landlord for non-compliance, mainly because most Dauphin County district justices aren’t processing cases of non-payment of rent, David Patton, codes administrator for the city, said. However, he added that he has received emails from residents voicing concerns related to evictions. He investigates each of those cases, he said.

City Solicitor Neil Grover explained at a City Council meeting in December that the ordinance does not take away landlords’ right to be paid.  Residents will be expected to pay any back rent once the string of moratoriums ends.

Organizations such as Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area’s HELP Ministries are busy providing rental relief for residents in debt. Harrisburg is also in the process of distributing $500,000 in federal Emergency Shelter Grant COVID (ESG/CV) funds to tenants.

During an update from Harrisburg’s Department of Building and Housing Development in January, local landlords said that the city’s rental relief has helped them out, taking off some of the pressure that the moratorium puts on them.

Papenfuse said that the city will continue to extend the eviction moratorium while the public health emergency continues.

“It’s gotten better than when the moratorium went in place, but we are still not through the woods,” he said.

For questions or concerns related to Harrisburg’s eviction moratorium, email or call the city’s hotline, 3-1-1.

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