Inflation-Fueled Rent Hikes Have Tenant Unions Asking Biden To Declare State of Emergency

Worries parents doing home finances in the living room.
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A coalition of tenant unions, community organizations and legal groups is asking the Biden administration to take more action to fight rent inflation — which they are calling a “national emergency.”

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Tara Raghuveer, Director of KC Tenants, tweeted on August 9 that more than 220 tenant unions, community orgs, and legal partners — organized via the #HomesGuarantee campaign — “call on @POTUS to regulate rent through every available authority.”

Raghuveer claims extensive research shows that Biden has the authority to “regulate rents through actions like directing Fannie, Freddie, and FHA to impose rent controls on borrowers of federally-backed mortgages.” She added, “It’s time for serious consideration of these and other ideas to regulate rents in the midst of a national emergency. The federal government has a role to play, and the President has a responsibility to step up.”

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The Washington Post reports that the coalition sent a memo to National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and other White House advisers saying, “we urge the President to act immediately to regulate rents, as part of the Administration’s efforts to curb inflation, and as a critical foundation for long term protections to correct the imbalance of power between tenants and their landlords.”

Rents have been soaring, with the shelter index continuing to rise in July, albeit posting a smaller increase than the prior month, up 0.5% in July compared to 0.6 % in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which released its Consumer Price Index (CPI) on August 10. The shelter index rose 5.7%  over the last year, accounting for 40% of the total increase in all items less food and energy, the BLS said.

In addition, the rent index rose 0.7% in July, a 6.3% increase on an annual basis.

The coalition is calling on President Biden to declare a state of emergency on housing and issue an executive order. Some of the coalition’s proposals include “to require federal agencies to identify avenues for protecting tenants in federally-assisted housing and in the private rental market against unreasonable rent hikes, wrongful and unjustified evictions, denial of a lease renewal, and retaliation for organizing.”

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It also wants the administration to convene a cabinet-level task force to regulate rents and secure other tenants’ rights, including legal representation in eviction proceedings. Additional proposals include some for rent control, by limiting rent increases to 1.5 times the CPI or 3%, whichever is lower, according to its website.

The coalition’s proposals come on the heels of the White House and the Department of Treasury’s August 2 Summit on Building Lasting Eviction Prevention Reform.

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“As funds for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) are beginning to wind down, the Summit will focus on the need for an all-out effort to build lasting reform — including through the use of remaining American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds from ERA and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) assistance,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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