Stephanie Butler helps local residents keep their homes during tough times

by David Hunt
Posted 5/20/21

For many residents of Northwest Philadelphia facing eviction, Mt. Airy CDC has been indispensable.

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Stephanie Butler helps local residents keep their homes during tough times

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For many residents of Northwest Philadelphia facing eviction, Mt. Airy CDC has been indispensable.

In charge of that effort is Stephanie Butler, the HUD-certified director of the housing counseling department at Mt. Airy Community Development Corporation (CDC), where she’s worked for 20 years.  In that role, Butler has been busy assisting residents of Northwest Philadelphia with the city’s rental eviction diversion program.

Philadelphia launched its rental eviction diversion program in September, 2020. City Council talked about implementing it for years, but it was put into place to help tenants whose incomes were affected by the pandemic, according to Butler.

The program is modeled after foreclosure diversion, an area Butler has worked in for many years. Qualifying renters are eligible for $2,000 a month for up to 18 months, and they can also apply this forward three months if needed. It is only available to those behind in rent. It does not cover break of lease evictions. For example, if someone had a dog in a home where the contract specifically stated owning one was prohibited, Mt. Airy CDC cannot help, and the renter would be subject to eviction.

These are services that many in Northwest Philadelphia need, Butler said.

“There is a shortage of affordable housing,” she said. “There are people who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and are behind on their rent,” Butler said. “There is a majority of people that need housing repairs and cannot afford them, and they are looking for either city programs or some type of rental assistance to help get them through.”

Butler is a long-time Philadelphia resident. After receiving her real estate license from Temple University’s School of Real Estate, Butler earned a paralegal degree from The American Institute. Before working at Mt. Airy CDC, Butler worked at another agency doing the same thing: helping people.

The agency was the now defunct Germantown Settlement, a social service and housing agency, where she discovered her passion for assisting homeowners.

“I volunteered there for the energy program, and the directors asked if I wanted to go to training for counseling, and I said ‘yes’,” Butler said. “I’ve always liked helping people.”

Along with rental diversion, Mt. Airy CDC’s housing counseling department provides a wide range of services: hosting more than 40 first-time homebuyer workshops a year, foreclosure prevention, one-on-one pre-purchase counseling where they help people purchase a home, home repairs and credit and budgeting, according to both Butler. Basically, anything involving home owning, The CDC’s housing counseling has seen it and knows how to solve it.

The Mt. Airy CDC rental eviction diversion program, with Butler at the lead, has helped more than 50 renters since it was established in September 2020.

Every Wednesday afternoon, Butler joins a Zoom call with the tenant, the landlord and a pro bono attorney mediator to try to help tenants who are behind on rent work out an agreement with their landlord. Rental diversion is a big part of what the CDC’s housing counseling does, according to Butler. (Most of the work the CDC does in and around housing is pre-purchase counseling.)

Butler’s work has merited the admiration of not only local residents, but of those in charge of handing out awards. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) awarded Butler with Best Counselor award in 2014. In 2021, she is still going strong.

For the 2016 fiscal year, Mt. Airy CDC’s housing counseling team won the Best Agency award. Out of the 95 agencies considered for the award statewide, the local team--with Butler at the helm--came out victorious.

Butler said that renters aren’t the only people who need help. There’s nearly an even split between renters and homeowners who seek the Mt. Airy CDC’s help.

“It's 50-50. You have the renters who are behind because of COVID-19, and then there’s a short stock of homes and affordable places for them to rent,” Butler said. “You got the homeowners who lost their job, income, and are behind on their mortgage. Since there is still a moratorium for both, people are okay for the time being.”

For more information and to visit Mt. Airy CDC’s Department of Housing Counseling: mtairycdc.org/housing.

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