The Biden administration announced a national package of renter protections as rents have soared 20% or more in the last two years.
Under pressure to address the nation’s soaring housing costs, the Biden administration on Wednesday announced significant new actions to protect tenants and make renting more affordable.
The announcement involves multiple federal agencies that will gather information on unfair housing practices. It also includes a “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights” that, while not binding, sets clear guidelines to help renters stay in affordable housing. The White House is also launching a call to action, dubbed the “Resident-Centered Housing Challenge,” that aims to get housing providers as well as state and local governments to strengthen policies in their own markets.
After months of deliberation, the moves come as the housing market continues to pose a serious problem for people who don’t own their homes — and for the economy overall. While inflation has fallen for the past six months, average rental prices have continued to increase rapidly, disproportionately hurting vulnerable households that spend the bulk of their budgets on rent. Meanwhile, the country is stuck in a massive housing shortfall, complicating efforts to lower costs or simply find enough places for the 44 million American renter households to go.
“This is something the president identified as being necessary on the campaign trail, and is not necessarily purely a product of the current surge in rents, because this is much more expansive than thinking about this in the context of rent growth,” said Erika Poethig, special assistant to the president for housing and urban policy at the Domestic Policy Council, in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s about thinking about many other aspects of what contributes to a fair market.”
For over a year, tenant leaders, housing experts and legal organizations have pushed the Biden administration to do everything in its power to tackle soaring rent costs, arguing that America’s housing issues are an economic crisis. In recent months, advocates say they were frustrated that the proposals weren’t coming faster or with more force, arguing that the White House was hesitant to test the limits of its executive authority or issue direct requirements to local governments and federal agencies. Tenants and community organizers also met with White House officials and agency heads, and held a congressional briefing sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in November to push for a sweeping set of new regulations.
Organizers with People’s Action and the Homes Guarantee said the announcement included some wins, like getting the Federal Housing Finance Agency to work on identifying ways to adopt and enforce tenant protections, including policies that limit high rent increases at properties with FHFA-backed mortgages.
But in an analysis of the proposals, they said the policies weren’t enough to change “tenants’ lives materially today.” The announcement includes no conditions on federal financing, for example, but instead gets closest with a carrot approach, like providing incentives to landlords who accept vouchers.
The solution is MORE RENTAL MULTIFAMILY HOUSING but nobody wants to build it, and nobody wants to live near it in a owned home, so when it does get built it's way out in the middle of nowhere.
The incentives are a start, but we need more housing period.