Pres. Issues ‘Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights’
The extensive blueprint creates changes via DOJ, HUD, FHFA, FTC, CFPB and others. Builders say it could be worse, but the “order is the wrong strategy.”
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new actions to “increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing” that align with a new Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights that was also released.
The 18-page blueprint creates a set of principles intended to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector.
Overview: Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights
According to the White House, major initiatives within the blueprint include:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing. They’ll use that information for enforcement and policy actions that fall under each agency’s jurisdiction. It’s the first time the FTC has issued a request for information exploring unfair practices in the rental market.
The two agencies will seek information on things like tenant background checks, algorithms in tenant screenings, adverse action notices by landlords and property management companies, and how source-of-income factors influence housing decisions.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – an oversight agency for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and others’ loans – will launch a new public process for examining any proposed actions that promote renter protections and limit “egregious rent increases for future investments.”
FHFA says its process will be transparent and include periodic updates to stakeholders. As announced in November, FHFA will also boost multifamily affordability by updating multifamily loan requirements for affordable housing. FHFA says that if 2022 production holds, it will add about 700,000 more affordable units to the U.S. housing stock.
- A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) workshop will focus on anti-competitive information sharing, including in rental markets.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to require public housing authorities and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to provide at least 30 days’ advanced notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment of rent.
- The Biden Administration says it will hold quarterly meetings with a “broad, diverse, and varying group of tenants and tenant advocates” to make sure they continue to have a seat at the table, and to give them an opportunity to “share ambitious ideas to strengthen tenant protections.”
Builders have objections, say plan could be worse
“While not as bad as it could have been, the White House rental executive order is the wrong strategy, centering on rental protections instead of market-based solutions that will truly ease the nation’s housing and rental affordability crisis by spurring the production of badly needed affordable housing,” says National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Jerry Konter. “Strengthening successful programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is the right way to proceed if we are to bring down rising home and rental prices.”
Konter says that the blueprint pushes landlords to help tenants behind in rent but says that’s already being done, and “they were doing this during the height of the pandemic when renters were most vulnerable.”
Konter takes issue with the emphasis of the blueprint. “If the administration is truly committed to help America’s renters, it will champion solutions that will enable builders to construct more apartments and homes to reduce the nation’s deficit of 1.5 million housing units,” he says. “To increase housing supply and reduce affordability burdens, state and local governments can start by allowing for zoning to include more high-density housing, reducing regulations that stall building projects, encouraging public/private partnerships in development, and offering direct help to those that need it.”
Resident-Centered Housing Challenge
The administration is also looking for commitments from the private sector through a Resident-Centered Housing Challenge that will take off this spring. Early commitments include:
- The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Institute of Real Estate Management will creating new resources for property managers that highlight ways they can incorporate resident-centered property management practices in their businesses.
- The National Multifamily Housing Council will work with its 2,000 members to identify business standards that align with principles of resident-centered management practices, such as helping residents build credit, providing resource information to residents in financial distress.
- Realtor.com Rentals will pilot a new listing process through their DIY landlord product, Avail, that highlights units and landlords that welcome Housing Choice Vouchers.
- The National Apartment Association will promote resident programming and practices, such as helping tenants build and improve credit through reporting of positive rent payments to credit bureaus, through their website, industry events and other content channels.
- Wisconsin and Pennsylvania housing finance agencies will cap annual rental increases to 5% per year for federal or state subsidized affordable housing.
- Members of the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), which collectively own or manage 145,000 housing units across the U.S., will offer flexible payment plans for residents with unpaid rent under some conditions.
To join the Challenge, interested partners can complete a survey by April 28, 2023.Questions regarding the White House Resident-Centered Housing Challenge team can be directed to RCHousingChallenge@who.eop.gov.
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