‘National Crisis’ of Rising Housing Costs

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Source: Common Dreams

As economic justice advocates push President Joe Biden to use his executive authority to address the crisis of high housing costs facing tenants across the U.S., new polling released Thursday illustrated the risk of doing nothing.

The progressive think tank Data for Progress surveyed 1,344 likely voters from across the nation from August 4-6 and found that a simple majority—51%—believe Biden should take executive action to alleviate the burden caused by rising housing costs “since this is a national crisis and it will provide immediate relief for people facing skyrocketing rents.”

“Landlords charge rents, not based on the quality or condition of the home, but on whatever the market will allow. In the absence of federal rent regulation, this is a story of unchecked corporate greed.”

Two-thirds of renters—who make up more than a third of U.S. households—were among those who said Biden should take action.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents who are tenants said they are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about being able to afford their rent payments.

The poll was taken as USA Today reported that median rent payments were up 7.4% in July from July 2021, with middle-income and younger tenants seeing the biggest increases.

In cities that have seen major population growth since the pandemic—including Palm Beach, Florida and Las Vegas—year-over-year rent price increases are as high as 26.6%. Nationwide, the median monthly rental payment is over $2,000 for the first time ever.

Analysts say rents are expected to continue rising this year due to high demand resulting from homebuyers getting priced out of the market, inflation-driven higher maintenance costs for landlords, and a need or desire among some landlords to raise rents following the federal eviction moratorium that was imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the Data for Progress poll, 65% of respondents said they believe the federal government should do more to help tenants, including 82% of Democrats and 61% of independents.

The poll was released days after more than 220 organizations signed a letter demanding that the Biden administration regulate rent to curb inflation.

The groups, including People’s Action, Housing Rights Initiative, and the Coalition for the Homeless in Kentucky, called on Biden 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.”

The groups emphasized that as with student debt cancellation, there are steps the president can take without Congress to regulate rent costs and alleviate the financial burden on millions of households.

Steps Biden could take include:

  • Requiring federal agencies to identify ways to protect tenants against unreasonable rent hikes and wrongful evictions;
  • Convening an interagency task force to regulate rents and secure other tenants’ rights;
  • Imposing rent regulations on all borrowers of federally backed mortgages;
  • Investigating corporate landlords who use unfair tenant screening and debt collection practices; and
  • Attaching good cause eviction protections to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

As rents have increased, the Eviction Lab at Princeton University has found that evictions have gone up in the six states and 31 cities the group tracks.

“Landlords charge rents, not based on the quality or condition of the home, but on whatever the market will allow,” wrote the groups in their letter to Biden earlier this week. “In the absence of federal rent regulation, this is a story of unchecked corporate greed.”

Data for Progress said its recent polling clearly demonstrates that with three months to go until Americans vote in the midterm elections, “voters are concerned about the issue” of the cost-of-housing crisis.

“There are clear steps that President Biden can take to provide relief,” said Data for Progress. “Biden must take it upon himself to use his executive authority in order to assist those who need it the most, or we will not only have a cost-of-housing crisis in this country, but a major homelessness crisis as well.”

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