Election 2022

Should the board that helps enforce Philly’s fair housing laws be made permanent? It’s a ballot question in the May primary

The FHC has been operating since 1962, but it’s not yet written into the charter.

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

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The Fair Housing Commission, a mayor-appointed board that’s existed in Philadelphia for decades, is on the verge of cementing its place in the constellation of official bodies concerned with tenant-landlord relations and unfair rental practices.

One of the questions on the primary election ballot gives voters the choice of whether to write the FHC into the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter as an independent body.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Should The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to establish the Fair Housing Commission as an independent commission to administer and enforce statutes and ordinances concerning unfair rental practices and certain other matters concerning the landlord and tenant relationship and to adjudicate disputes related to such matters?

What it means

The commission’s longtime presence in fair housing disputes seems to have made the board a fairly uncontroversial part of Philly’s housing ecosystem.

A resolution to shift the FHC into the charter as a permanent body was introduced by Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker in early February, and glided to Mayor Kenney’s desk unopposed after an unanimous Feb. 24 Council vote. It was signed the next day.

Nothing about how the board is appointed or what the FHC can enforce will change if the ballot measure succeeds.

But the resolution that put the question on the ballot states the change “will be beneficial to assure the continuation of the Commission.” As things stand, if City Council didn’t think the FHC was useful, they could theoretically dissolve it. This charter change would prevent that from happening.

The FHC was formed in 1962, as part of Philly’s first fair housing ordinance. Its five board members are tasked with enforcing the city’s regulations — and specifically the Fair Housing Ordinance — with a focus on deferred maintenance and retaliatory eviction (tenants are always advised to raise concerns before their landlord takes them to court).

Along with private arbitration and resource provision for landlords and tenants, the commission can hold hearings on allegedly unsafe properties, as they discover such sites or receive notice of them.

If tenants are unsure whether their landlords have necessary rental licenses and certificates, the FHC can request said documents to verify. Educational efforts to inform landlords and tenants of their rights is another role the body can play.

The FHC holds public hearings on a regular basis pending active complaints and disputes. Right now, hearings are planned weekly through mid-June.

Who’s for it

  • City Council
  • Mayor Kenney

Who’s against it

  • Billy Penn could not identify any opponents

Want some more? Explore other Election 2022 stories.

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