Rent inflation calls on the White House to do more for tenants

The White House hasn’t done enough to tackle rent inflation, says a coalition of tenants’ unions, community organizations and legal groups calling on the Biden administration to launch a comprehensive government response to intervene.

A set of proposals, shared with The Washington Post, calls on the Biden administration to declare a state of emergency on housing and explore ways to regulate rents.

The proposals affect six government agencies and are intended to push federal regulators to consider new ways to reduce rental costs, which rose 5.8% in June from a year earlier.

Overall, prices are up 9.1% from a year ago, and inflation remains the top economic issue facing households, businesses and policymakers.

In recent months, the Biden administration has come under enormous pressure to find a way to cut gas prices, another major way people feel inflation in their daily lives.

The White House responded with oil rejections and calling on Congress to consider a gasoline tax exemption, which did not happen.

Proponents want the same urgency and solutions for housing, calling it its own economic crisis.

“We urge the president to act immediately to regulate rents, as part of the administration’s efforts to fight inflation, and as a critical foundation for long-term protections to correct the power imbalance between tenants and tenants. their owners,” according to a memo from the coalition. sent to National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and other White House advisers.

The effort, part of a campaign called Homes Guarantee, comes a week after the White House held a summit on its efforts to prevent evictions during the pandemic and maintain financial support for struggling tenants.

In an online forum, White House officials touted progress under the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which was supported amid the covid crisis to avert a wave of disasters. evictions once a federal moratorium was no longer in place.

The money was extremely slow to come out at first, but the program picked up speed.

Some $40 billion, of a $46 billion pot, has been committed or spent, according to the Treasury Department, and nationwide deportation filings remain below their historical averages.

While the summit was billed as something of a victory lap, Biden administration officials acknowledged there was still work to be done, especially as soaring rents reduce options where families can afford to live.

Data from Redfin shows that in May, the median monthly asking rent in the United States topped $2,000 for the first time, with rent increases spanning the country.

“The question is, are we happy to let this first-ever national eviction reduction infrastructure crumble?” Gene Sperling, coordinator of the American Rescue Plan, the 2021 pandemic relief program, said at the summit last week.

“Or are we going to build on it and strengthen it and make permanent gains?”

A big reason housing prices are skyrocketing is that there just aren’t enough homes.

The United States needs 1.5 to 5 million homes built, according to a wide range of economic estimates.

In May, the White House unveiled its housing supply action plan, which aims to close the nation’s housing deficit in five years.

But these investments would do little to combat current rent inflation. Fighting inflation is the job of the Federal Reserve, which has launched an aggressive effort to lower prices through interest rate hikes.

But the Fed can’t target any specific part of the economy, let alone build homes, leaving more tailored solutions to elected officials.

“Tenants have to pay their rent every month, and the alternative is homelessness,” Tara Raghuveer, campaign manager for Homes Guarantee told People’s Action.

“If the president is going to take meaningful action to rein in inflation, he must earnestly use all available authorities to regulate rent.”

Specifically, the coalition wants a cabinet-level task force to look at regulating rents and securing legal aid for tenants in eviction proceedings.

Supporters also want the Treasury Department to issue new rules that order state and local recipients to prevent landlords from raising rent beyond a certain amount as a condition of receiving rent assistance.

They say the Department of Housing and Urban Development should investigate whether rising rents are contributing to inequality and preventing access to fair housing.

And the group wants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to impose rent regulation on all federally backed mortgage borrowers.

Zonnie Thompson, 23, lives in one such property in Stockton, California.

His rent recently went from $1,500 to $1,700.

As part of a delegation of tenants, Thompson is traveling to Washington this week to discuss solutions with the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“We want them to commit to working with organizations across the country, like ours, to roll out policies that will protect renters and increase their ability to stay in their homes – without losing the majority of their pay to rent. “Thompson said. .

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