Earlier this year, the White House released a Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights. The Blueprint sets out five principles to guide future best practices and policymaking: “the need for renters 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.”
As I said last week, we can’t control inflation without reducing the cost of housing. Core CPI, which excludes highly volatile energy and food prices, has remained stuck above 5% since the end of 2021 despite the Federal Reserve Board of Governors increasing interest rates 4.75 points. This month, the Department of Labor announced that Core CPI was 5.6%, having risen in March. Shelter was “by far the largest contributor” to these numbers, the Labor Department said. But even higher interest rates may actually make the problem worse. Until we get housing prices under control, inflation is unlikely to respond to higher rates which increase the cost of shelter.
According to the next update of NHC’s Paycheck to Paycheck database, to be released later this month, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Phoenix, Arizona rose 34% in one year. To afford that apartment, a household would have to earn $58,580, up from $43,640 the year before. In Seattle, the average cost of renting a one-bedroom unit rose 21%. In Charlotte, it was 16%. And in Boise, Idaho, the cost of renting the average one-bedroom apartment rose 18%. These astronomical increases are due to a wide range of factors, including expanding populations and the lack of adequate supply as well as landlords increasing rents well above the rate of inflation.
Going after “greedy landlords” may seem tempting, but it can also curtail production, leading to even higher rents and homelessness in the future. Each market has a unique range of factors impacting the cost of housing, but the lack of adequate supply is likely the largest common denominator. According to a recent study, the U.S. has a shortage of 3.8 million units of affordable housing. This has helped fuel inflation, and created enormous stress on people in nearly every major metropolitan area and income level.
Last fall, NHC and several of our most influential members across the political spectrum met with senior Administration officials at the White House to follow up on an earlier discussion regarding bipartisan solutions to the housing affordability crisis. Our first meeting in the Roosevelt Room went so well, the White House staff asked us to use half of the November meeting to discuss rent controls and renter protections, an area on which the group had strong disagreements.
Fair housing and low-income housing advocates were unequivocal in their condemnation of price-gauging and evictions. Industry representatives strongly opposed measures that would create disincentives to invest and manage affordable rentals or force landlords to carry the economic burden of tenants that are a threat to their neighbors or don’t pay their rent. I cautioned that federal policymakers’ approach to new regulations be data-driven and take great care to avoid unintended consequences that could increase the cost of rental housing in the long run. The conversation was civil, informative, and very well-received. At the appointed time, we pivoted to discuss areas where we are in agreement. I was proud to be a part of the kind of meeting that doesn’t occur nearly enough in Washington. Future discussion on this issue won’t be easier. Quite the contrary. But we must work together if we are going to successfully address this crisis.
NHC looks forward to being an active participant in these discussions over the months and years to come. NHC’s members include national and local leaders in these issues. Many of the most progressive advocates for tenant rights are long-time members, as are many of the largest investors, developers and managers of rental properties, some for-profit and others non-profit. Given this extraordinarily broad membership, we are uniquely positioned to help develop bipartisan policies that can create impactful, lasting solutions to the challenges faced by American renters. Strong differences among our members will remain. But if we are successful, we will improve the lives of millions of our fellow Americans, many of whom are our parents, children, colleagues and friends. We will also contribute to reducing the trauma of eviction and the tragedy of homelessness.
As we work together, I am hopeful that we will develop sound industry best practices that reduce unnecessary evictions and unfair rent increases, encourage the development of more affordable housing supply by a wide range of builders, investors and developers, and expand the preservation of safe and affordable housing. There is much room for improvement. Federal as well as state and local regulations must be simplified so our limited resources can go further. We also need to develop best practices that reduce evictions and effectively support tenants who can’t find affordable housing.
If you are interested in working with us to help address this crisis, please email Brittany Webb, our Director of Research, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our members are the ultimate experts on this issue, and together we can identify strategies that work and solutions that last.