WASHINGTON—In the midst of historically high housing costs, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) joined U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman Ed.D (D-N.Y.) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in sending a bicameral letter urging President Biden to pursue all possible strategies to address rent inflation, end corporate price gouging in the real estate sector, and ensure that renters and people experiencing homelessness across this country are stably housed this winter.
“In the absence of robust investments in fair and affordable housing, it is clear that additional timely executive action is needed to address the urgent issue of historically high rental costs and housing instability. With this in mind, we urge your Administration to pursue all possible strategies to end corporate price gouging in the real estate sector and ensure that renters and people experiencing homelessness across this country are stably housed this winter,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers continued: “Simply put, the rent is too high and millions of people across this country are struggling to stay stably housed as a result. Housing is the largest monthly expense for most Americans, and skyrocketing rental costs increase the likelihood of evictions, foreclosures, homelessness, and health issues for people across the country. Rent is a major driver of inflation. According to the Consumer Price Index, the cost of shelter rose 0.8% in October alone, which is the highest rate in 40 years. Furthermore, as was highlighted in a recent House Financial Services Committee hearing, over the last few years, median asking rents have increased by 31% and house prices have increased 48%.”
In addition to Congress pursuing legislation to address unaffordable housing costs, the lawmakers laid out seven steps the Biden administration should take “to supplement pre-existing efforts with actions that support tenants and address the issue of rent inflation and corporate price gouging in the rental market today,” including:
· Directing the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to establish renter protections for individuals residing in properties financed with government-backed mortgage properties;
· Directing the Federal Trade Commission to enforce action against unfair rent gouging practices;
· Directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue guidance mitigating cost burden and adopting anti-rent gouging measures;
· Encouraging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Department of Justice, and HUD to investigate corporate landlords discriminating against tenants unlawfully;
· Encouraging states to use State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan to protect renters from the threat of rent inflation and corporate greed in the rental market;
· Activating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to move people experiencing homelessness into permanent, affordable homes;
· Establishing a Federal Interagency Council on Tenants’ Rights to identify interagency actions that can be taken to support renters and coordinate the implementation of those policies.
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