White House Renters Bill of Rights’ Principles & Agency Actions
On January 25, the White House announced a number of actions to advance President Biden’s housing agenda, which are intended to protect renters and promote rental affordability. Key actions include:
- Unveiling “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights,” which lays out five principles that President Biden would like to see guide future policymaking at all levels of government;
- Proposing more than 20 federal agency actions intended to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing; and
- Launching its Resident-Centered Housing Challenge, a call-to-action for housing providers and stakeholders to improve the quality of life for renters.
What’s in the Blueprint?
In its Blueprint, the White House Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council propose five principles meant to shift what they view as a power imbalance between housing providers and their residents in the rental market, urging that renters need to have access to:
- 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.
While these principles are nonbinding and do not constitute federal governmental policy, the Biden Administration suggests that these principles will guide changes to federal housing policy moving forward and calls on state and local governments to strengthen renter protections to align with these principles.
This announcement followed months of White House-led discussions between Administration officials and industry stakeholders including the National Apartment Association (NAA). NAA continued to emphasize the industry’s strong opposition to expanded federal involvement in the landlord/tenant relationship.
Rental markets vary widely across the country, which is why local solutions tailored to individual markets is most appropriate, and much like our concerns about the CARES Act notice to vacate requirement, practical implementation challenges and unintended consequences would result from expanding federal landlord and tenant requirements onto housing providers in the private market.
NAA’s federal advocacy continues as multiple federal agencies explore housing policy changes on a variety of topics buttressing existing agency initiatives already in alignment with the objectives set forth in the Blueprint.
Agency Commitments by Topic
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) committed to award $20 million in fiscal year 2023 for non-profits and governmental entities to provide legal assistance to low-income renters at risk of or subject to eviction.
- HUD committed to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require Public Housing Agencies that administer a public housing program and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to provide at least 30 days’ notification of lease termination due to nonpayment of rent.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (The Enterprises) committed to publish information about the Enterprise Look-Up Tool, allowing residents to see if their property is backed by Enterprise financing and requires a 30-day notice to vacate for nonpayment of rent.
- The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) committed to meet with stakeholders to discuss furthering eviction prevention for renters with respect to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
- HUD committed to explore opportunities to address source of income discrimination through guidance, which could mandate that housing providers accept Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
- The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) committed to meet with stakeholders to discuss advancing source of income discrimination protections with respect to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.
- HUD committed to release guidance on ways resident screening algorithms may violate the Fair Housing Act.
- HUD committed to seek public comment on ways it can improve its Section 504 regulations and the accessibility standards for HUD-assisted facilities.
- HUD committed to implement new enforcement authorities and protections for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking under the 2022 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
INSPECTIONS / HOUSING QUALITY
- HUD committed to launch the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) to replace certain previous inspection requirements and to promote uniformity between HUD programs.
- FHFA and the Enterprises committed to update their radon testing standards for multifamily housing.
- The Department of Agriculture (USDA) committed to pilot a new uniform and independent inspection protocol.
- HUD committed to build on training and technical assistance strategies to promote engagement with residents and implementation of the Rental Assistance Demonstration resident protections, including grievance procedures, by owners of RAD-converted properties.
- HUD committed to develop a Notice of Funding Opportunity to distribute funds to support “tenant capacity building activities”, including renter education and outreach.
- The Department of Defense (DoD) committed to ensure that military members in DoD housing have the right to organize and report housing issues without fear of retribution or retaliation.
- Freddie Mac is researching renter protections and plans to publish a paper that surveys each state’s landlord-tenant acts across a series of topics. This paper will be used to develop potential incentives for enhanced renter protections in 2024.
- USDA committed to develop a lease for their multifamily rental portfolio similar to the model lease used in HUD Section 8 properties as well as other educational efforts for residents to better understand their rights and responsibilities.
- DoD is committed to ensure that military members can receive housing assistance on- or off-base, to include assistance finding suitable, affordable housing; inspecting housing units prior to leasing; negotiating rents; reviewing leases; resolving landlord disputes; and addressing accessible housing issues and potential housing discrimination complaints.
- The White House, USDA, Treasury, and HUD will meet with a broad, diverse, and varying group of renters and renter advocates on a quarterly basis to hear their perspectives on dynamics in the rental markets and opportunities to strengthen renter protections. These meetings will enable multiple agencies and their staff to learn from the lived experience and expertise of renters and their advocates and will inform agencies’ policymaking and enforcement efforts.
- As announced in November, FHFA will increase affordability in the multifamily rental market by classifying multifamily loans with loan agreements that restrict rents at levels affordable to households with incomes between 80 and 120 percent of Area Median Income as “mission driven.” In 2023, FHFA required that at least 50 percent of all Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae purchases of multifamily loans be mission-driven. 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 translate to investment in approximately 700,000 affordable units.
- Fannie Mae remains committed to its Expanded Housing Choice pilot program which offers lower financing to property owners who agree to accept HCV vouchers.
FHFA and the Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has announced it will launch a process to conduct stakeholder outreach and engagement to identify the opportunities and challenges of adopting and enforcing renter protections including policies that limit egregious rent increases at properties with Enterprise-backed mortgages going forward.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) committed to host a workshop on the impact of modern methods of information-sharing in consumer-facing markets to inform potential guidance on the issue as it relates to anti-competitive practices.
RESIDENT SCREENING & COSUMER REPORTING
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) committed to explore ways to take action against unfair practices that prevent consumers from obtaining and retaining housing. This will begin with issuing a Request for Information (RFI) along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help identify related practices and advise enforcement and policy actions.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) committed to explore new guidance or rules related to the background screening industry, ensuring background check companies are accountable for the accuracy of their reports.
- CFPB also committed to work with HUD, FHFA, FTC and USDA to release best practices on the use of resident screening reports.
As these regulatory actions progress, rest assured that NAA will engage in every step of the policymaking process, and when the time comes, we will need the full voice and participation of every NAA member to ensure the industry’s voice is heard. Check the NAA Action Center for updates.
To learn more about NAA’s federal regulatory advocacy, contact Nicole Upano, NAA’s AVP of Housing Policy & Regulatory Affairs.