The Biden administration is trying to create tenant rights

Housing rights activists and tenants protest outside the offices of landlord Broadway Capital in Chelsea, Massachusetts on April 25, 2022 against evictions and the poor condition of their apartments.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday new measures to protect renters across the United States, including trying to curb practices that prevent people from accessing housing and curb exorbitant rent increases on certain properties with federally backed mortgages.

A “Blueprint for a bill of rights for renters‘ was included in the announcement. It sets out a set of principles that the federal government and others must adopt, including “access to safe, quality, accessible and affordable housing” and “clear and fair leases.”

“It’s really significant that the federal government and the White House are talking about and endorsing the need for a tenants’ bill of rights,” he said Diane YentelPresident and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

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According to the White House, over 44 million households, or about 35% of the US population, live in rented apartments.

While the coronavirus pandemic prompted a wave of new protections and relief measures for renters, including a historic pot of rental aid for those who had fallen behind, most of that aid has now dried up.

Advocates have long urged the government to respond to an affordability crisis facing renters. Almost half of renter households in the US directly more than 30% from their income to rent and utilities each month and 900,000 evictions occurred annually before the public health crisis.

Possible containment of “extreme rent increases”

As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and state-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say they will examine the possibility of a tenant protection scheme that “horrendous rent increases” for properties that are secured by certain federal mortgages.

More than 28% of the nationwide rental housing stock is federally funded, according to according to a calculation by the Urban Institute in 2020.

Rent protection for such properties “would be the most significant action the federal government could take,” Yentel said.

As part of the White House’s actions, the Federal Trade Commission said it will look at ways to expand its powers to crack down on practices that “unfairly prevent consumers from obtaining and retaining housing.”

This is how evictions work in the US

Persistence of eviction information in certain background reports, as well as high application fees and bails, are some of these practices, Yentel said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also said it will begin requiring certain rental property owners to provide at least 30 days’ notice if they intend to terminate a tenant’s lease for non-payment of rent. The agency is awarding $20 million for this Eviction Protection Grant Programwhich will fund non-profit organizations and government agencies to provide legal assistance to low-income tenants at risk of eviction.

Bob PinnegarPresident and CEO of trade group National Apartment Association, said the industry opposes expanded federal involvement in the landlord-tenant relationship.

“Complex housing policy is a state and local matter, and the best solutions use carrots rather than sticks,” Pinnegar said.

“Aggressive administrative action is so important”

While the moves announced by the Biden administration are historic, they will not solve the US housing crisis, Yentel said.

What it takes to resolve the pervasive problems, she said, is building affordable housing, creating permanent emergency and universal rent support, and establishing robust tenant protections.

However, Yentel added that because it is “hard to see where the opportunity for these investments will come from this Congress, aggressive administrative action is so important.” The Biden administration is trying to create tenant rights

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