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Biden-Harris Administration Actions to Protect Renters Misses the Mark on Supply

3 min read

In late January, after months of a two-track engagement process with tenant groups calling for nationwide rent control and industry groups calling for supply-side solutions, the Biden-Harris administration issued a press release, Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights and Resident-Centered Housing Challenge. The blueprint references the Housing Supply Action Plan and the shortfall of affordable housing but stops short of calling for increased supply to moderate rent increases. 

The blueprint describes federal actions around five guiding renter protections: Safe, Quality, Accessible and Affordable Housing; Clear and Fair Leases; Education, Enforcement and Enhancement of Renter Rights; The Right to Organize; and Eviction Prevention, Diversion and Relief.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced it will identify the opportunities and challenges of adopting and enforcing tenant protections, including policies that limit egregious rent increases at properties with Enterprise-backed mortgages going forward. The blueprint cites a “17.2 percent increase in average rents that occurred in just one year between February 2021 and 2022,” according to Zillow.

Moratoriums on rent increases during the pandemic (be they government or company-imposed) play a big part in that 17.2 percent increase. After two years of not raising rents, the other shoe was bound to eventually drop in the form of a big one-time increase. Owners are also making up for the bad debt they accrued during the pandemic from not being able to evict for non-payment of rent.

But the biggest factor of that 17.2 percent increase is inflation. Readers of this publication know all too well that the costs of developing and operating housing have gone up across the board impacting everything from building materials and labor to insurance and the cost of capital.

Nuance is important here. Affordable housing rents are already restricted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as state housing finance agencies. National Housing & Rehabilitation Association will participate in the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s stakeholder process as it considers policies that limit rent increases at properties with Enterprise-backed mortgages going forward to ensure that any new policies consider the existing rent increase restrictions of affordable housing.

Properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be subject to a 30-day notice to vacate for non-payment of rent and FHFA will publish an Enterprise Look-Up Tool. HUD will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking requiring that Public Housing Agencies and owners of project-based rental assistance properties provide no less than 30-day notice of lease termination due to nonpayment of rent.

The blueprint also recommends local governments take the following actions: immediately seal eviction filings and only unseal them in the case of a decision against the tenant, provide right to counsel in eviction proceedings and prohibit the source of income discrimination. 

The Resident-Centered Housing Challenge highlights early commitments to enhance existing policies and develop new ones that promote fairness and transparency in the rental market. Those wishing to participate in the challenge should complete the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge survey5 by April 28.

NH&RA has been actively engaging with the Biden-Harris administration on these issues and will continue to do so as the outlined federal actions make their way through the regulatory process. If you’d like to be engaged in this work, please email [email protected] to be added to the distribution list.

Kaitlyn Snyder is managing director of National Housing & Rehabilitation Association.