Good Life

Helping Hands: MidPenn Legal fights for tenants’ rights

There is an affordable housing crisis in Centre County.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s 2012 Housing Availability and Affordability Report revealed that the two-bedroom gross rent estimate in Centre County exceeds 30 percent of a median renter’s income. As for homeownership, the median home value in Centre County is $175,800 while the affordable home cost is $150,671. This indicates that the amount a homebuyer can afford to spend on a home is less than the county median home value.

According to this report, renting and homeownership are not affordable in Centre County based on median income. Further, we have seen a reduction of Section 8 vouchers, the closing of two mobile home parks, and the fire at the Hotel Do De. It is more important than ever that affordable housing be preserved for families living in Centre County.

MidPenn Legal Services strives to keep families in their homes. We work to make sure our clients are not wrongfully evicted, and we work with the local housing authority to keep the clients from losing their Section 8 vouchers or to keep them in subsidized housing.

We also help to protect victims of domestic violence from losing their homes. Our telephone advice project takes live phone calls and provides immediate legal advice. Advice attorneys provide information to tenants, inform them of their legal rights and, when necessary, refer them to a MidPenn attorney for personal representation, which can involve negotiations with landlords and in-court representation against unlawful evictions.

Clients of MidPenn have experienced violations that not only violate Pennsylvania’s Landlord Tenant Act but also individual human rights. Individuals have been denied water and heat to their homes in the middle of winter or forcefully evicted by landlords through self-help action, and some have been pushed to stay with an abuser because they feel like they have no other option. It should be our goal as a community to prevent these atrocities through continued representation and education.

The affordable housing crisis is a community issue and needs to be handled at the local level. With community in mind, MidPenn collaborates with other local organizations such as United Way, Community Action, Housing Transitions and the Centre County Affordable Housing Coalition. MidPenn also holds a number of fair-housing training programs to organizations and landlords around the county in an attempt to educate our community and prevent unlawful evictions.

If we continue to work as a community and educate our neighbors, then we can bring an end to the housing crisis that Centre County is facing today.

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