The White House has announced a series of actions to increase fairness in the rental market and further fair housing principles. These steps align with a newly released “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights,” which outlines a set of principles to spur action by the federal government, state, and local partners, and the private sector to protect renters and promote rental affordability.
“Over a third of the American population–44 million households–rent their homes. Before the pandemic, well over 2 million eviction fillings and roughly 900,000 evictions occurred annually–disproportionately affecting Black women and their children. Since then, rental housing has become less affordable with some landlords taking advantage of market conditions to pursue egregious rent increases,” said the White House statement. “Today’s announcements recognize there are responsible housing providers–large and small, national and local–willing to treat renters fairly, but it also holds accountable those who exploit market realities at the cost of renters’ housing access and stability.”
Key actions from the administration include:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), both independent agencies, will collect information to identify practices that are unfairly preventing applicants and renters from accessing or remaining in housing. According to the White House, this is the first time the FTC has issued a request for information related to unfair practices in the rental market;
- The CFPB will issue guidance and coordinate enforcement efforts with the FTC to ensure accurate information in credit reporting and to hold background check companies accountable for instituting unreasonable procedures;
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency will launch a public process to examine proposed actions promoting renter protections and limits on extreme rent increases for future investments;
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to require public housing authorities and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to give at least 30 days’ notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment; and
- The administration will hold quarterly meetings with a diverse group of residents and resident advocates to enable them to share their ideas to strengthen protections.
“Strengthening and enforcing renter protections is vitally important to addressing the broader housing crisis. There is a tremendous power imbalance in our housing system that tilts heavily in favor of landlords at the expense of low-income and other marginalized renters, putting families at greater risk of housing instability and homelessness and fueling racial inequity,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). “The administration’s announcements today are an important step toward achieving President Biden’s commitment to establishing a Renters Bill of Rights, but there is much more work still to be done.”
Yentel added that the moves are significant and historic, but the White House missed the opportunity to act on other key recommendations made by the NLIHC and its HoUSed campaign and Tenant Leader Cohort. “It is farther than I’ve ever seen a White House go to amplify and promote the importance of renter rights and protections,” she said. “NLIHC remains committed to working closely with the administration and Congress to take all necessary actions to ensure renters with the lowest incomes remain stably housed.”
In addition, the White House has issued a call to action to housing providers and other stakeholders to make a commitment to improve the quality of life for renters through the launch of the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge. State, local, tribal, and territorial governments also are being encouraged to develop new policies or enhance existing ones to promote fairness and transparency in the rental market.
Several organizations have committed to the Challenge, which will occur this spring and impact over 15 million rental units.
- The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) are capping annual rental increases to 5% for federally or state subsidized affordable housing. Starting this year, WHEDA’s policy applies to existing residents in properties financed with state or federal low-income housing tax credits. In Pennsylvania, this policy has been applied to its portfolio of 450 properties with PHFA funding in 2022;
- Members of the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, which include 12 leading nonprofits that collectively own or manage nearly 150,000 housing units across the nation, have committed to offering flexible payment plans for residents with unpaid rent who have communicated with property management and providing notices and protections where permitted by law and financing documents pertaining to nonpayments and any proposed sale or closure of a property. SAHF will also launch a task force to identify and share resident-centered best practices;
- The National Apartment Association (NAA) will promote resident programming and practices, such as helping renters build and improve their credit through the reporting of positive rent payments to the major credit bureaus, through its website, industry events, and other content channels;
- The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) will work with its members to identify business standards that align with principles of resident-centered management practices;
- Realtor.com Rentals will pilot a listing process through Avail, its DIY landlord product, to highlight landlords that accept Housing Choice Vouchers; and
- The National Association of Realtors and affiliate Institute of Real Estate Management have committed to creating new resources for property managers in its network, including best practices for advertising to prospective residents where Housing Choice Vouchers are accepted and providing rental assistance information.
The National Council of State Housing Agencies commended the administration and Challenge participants for their efforts but also urged collaboration and detailed approaches.
“Today’s White House announcement of federal actions and voluntary commitments by multifamily housing industry participants to promote ‘resident-centered’ property management practices cites specific policies adopted by the PHFA and WHEDA to maintain rents at reasonable levels in properties financed by those agencies,” NCSHA’s statement read. “These carefully tailored, state-specific policies were developed after detailed analysis, industry input, and public comment. Broader federal efforts should follow a similar approach to balance the needs of all the stakeholders in the affordable rental housing system.”
While the NAA and NMHC will be actively engaged with the challenge, they have concerns about what the new actions mean for multifamily owners and managers.
“The NMHC has worked in good faith with the administration on its Resident-Centered Housing Challenge and is pleased to join that challenge. While they have rejected calls for failed policies such as national rent control, we are disappointed they are pursuing potentially duplicative and onerous regulations that are already appropriately addressed under state and local law,” stated the NMHC. “These efforts will do nothing to address the nation’s housing shortage and could discourage much-needed investments in housing. We continue to urge the administration to prioritize enacting the Housing Supply Action Plan they issued in May. The best renter protection is an abundant supply of housing.”
Bob Pinnegar, NAA president and CEO, also said his organization worked with the administration in good faith.
“We stand by our commitment to promote industry resident services and practices,” he said. “NAA also made clear the industry’s opposition to expanded federal involvement in the landlord/tenant relationship. Complex housing policy is a state and local issue and the best solutions utilize carrots over sticks.”