Biden Administration Takes Action to Promote Renters, Affordability

In order to further the principle of fair housing, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced new action to increase fairness in the rental market. 

In addition, the Administration released in tandem a blueprint for a “Renters Bill of Rights” which lays out a set of principles to drive action by all levels of government and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections in order to encourage rental affordability. 

Key actions highlighted by the White House include:  

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), both independent agencies, announced they will collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing in order to inform enforcement and policy actions under each agency’s jurisdiction. This is 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 a broad range of practices that affect the rental market, including the creation and use of tenant background checks, the use of algorithms in tenant screenings, the provision of adverse action notices by landlords and property management companies, and how an applicant’s source of income factors into housing decisions. 
  • The CFPB announced it will issue guidance and coordinate enforcement efforts with the FTC to ensure accurate information in the credit reporting system and to hold background check companies accountable for having unreasonable procedures. 
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), an independent agency, announced it will launch a new public process to examine proposed actions promoting renter protections and limits on egregious rent increases for future investments. FHFA will maintain transparency throughout the process and provide periodic updates, including one within 6 months, to interested stakeholders. As announced in November, the FHFA will also increase affordability in the multifamily rental market by establishing requirements that encourage the financing of multifamily loans that guarantee affordable housing. In 2022, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae purchased a combined $142 billion in multifamily loans supporting over one million units. If the same activity holds in 2023, this would mean an investment in approximately 700,000 affordable units. 
  • A U.S. Department of Justice workshop will inform potential guidance updates around anti-competitive information sharing, including in rental markets. 
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking that would 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 Administration will hold quarterly meetings with a broad, diverse, and varying group of tenants and tenant advocates to ensure they continue to have a seat at the table and can share ambitious ideas to strengthen tenant protections. 

The Renters Bill of Rights aims to give basic, key protections every renters deserves: 

  • Safe, quality, accessible, and affordable housing. 
  • Clear and fair leases that have defined rental terms, rights, and responsibilities. 
  • Education, enforcement, and enhancements of renters rights to protect renters form unlawful discrimination and exclusion. 
  • The right to organize and bring grievances to landlords and property managers. 
  • Eviction prevention, diversion, and relief to ensure a fair, legal process is followed. 

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. 

After the announcement, the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) released a statement on the news: 

“The NMHC has worked in good faith with the Administration on its Resident-Centered Housing Challenge and is pleased to join that challenge. While they have 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. These efforts will do nothing to address the nation’s housing shortage and could discourage much-needed investments in housing. We continue to urge the Administration to prioritize enacting the Housing Supply Action Plan they issued in May. The best renter protection is an abundant supply of housing.” 

MBA’s President and CEO Bob Broeksmit, CMB, released the following statement on the Biden Administration’s action items announcement today on rental tenant protections and affordability:  

“MBA shares the Biden administration’s commitment to fair and equitable rental housing opportunity and appreciates its willingness to work with us and other industry stakeholders to help tenants. 

“We echo the Administration’s concern on the inflationary pressures and persistent affordability challenges that are impacting households throughout the country, especially renters and those with low and moderate incomes. 

“Increasing the supply of affordable rental housing is the best way to solve the ongoing affordability crisis, and MBA is committed to working with the Administration, Congress, and other policymakers on safe and sound policies at the federal and state level that encourage development and keep financing and construction costs in check. 

“We will examine the Administration’s actions in greater detail and participate in a constructive and collaborative approach to help tenants and increase safe and affordable multifamily housing. 

Click here to view the announcement in its entirety. 

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