By David M. Greenwald
Washington, DC – On Wednesday, the Biden Administration released its Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights which was a recognition for the need for tenant protections in a housing market.
The Blueprint showcases commitments by federal agencies to advance tenant rights, and it provides a five-principle framework: (1) access to safe, quality, accessible and affordable housing, (2) clear and fair leases, (3) education, enforcement, and enhancement of renter rights, (4) the right to organize, and (5) eviction prevention, diversion, and relief.
According to a White House release, “The Blueprint lays out a set of principles to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and encourage 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.
“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.,” the White House said.
The National Housing Law Project commended the White House for their commitment to tenants’ rights.
“Rental housing used to be a local industry, but it is increasingly dominated by national and multinational entities,” said NHLP’s Executive Director Shamus Roller.
Roller added, “The federal government must step in to address the price-fixing, collusion, and predatory practices that have harmed renters nationwide. The National Housing Law Project commends the White House for recognizing the need for federal action to address the urgent problems facing renters today, and for bringing federal agencies together for the additional work that is needed to support tenants in today’s inequitable housing markets.”
Renters rights groups in August wrote a letter to the administration amid “growing inflation and skyrocketing rents” that “are putting more of America’s lowest-income and most marginalized renters at risk of losing their homes and, in worst cases, becoming homeless.”
The letter noted, “Skyrocketing rent increases are driven by several factors, including a growing demand for rental housing, limited supply, and high inflation. Rent increases are also attributed to a largely unregulated rental market that permits landlords to raise rents as high as the market will allow, without regard to its impact on tenants with low incomes.”
Meanwhile, The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) remains concerned that the “Administration’s initiatives fall short of meaningfully addressing the housing crisis.”
They note that the Administration has “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.”
They argue, “These efforts will do nothing to address the nation’s housing shortage and could discourage much-needed investments in housing.”
Instead they call on the administration “Administration to prioritize enacting the Housing Supply Action Plan they issued in May. The best renter protection is an abundant supply of housing.”
Meanwhile the administration explained the principles laid out in the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which underscores key protections every renter deserves:
- Safe, Quality, Accessible, and Affordable Housing: Renters should have access to housing that is safe, decent, and affordable.
- Clear and Fair Leases: Renters should have a clear and fair lease that has defined rental terms, rights, and responsibilities.
- Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Renter Rights: Federal, state, and local governments should do all they can to ensure renters know their rights and to protect renters from unlawful discrimination and exclusion.
- The Right to Organize: Renters should have the freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from their housing provider or property manager.
- Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief: Renters should be able to access resources that help them avoid eviction, ensure the legal process during an eviction proceeding is fair, and avoid future housing instability.