January 09, 2023

Warren, Bowman Lead Lawmakers Urging President Biden to Use Every Tool to Keep Renters Housed and Fight Rising Rents

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C.  — In the midst of historically high housing costs, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) led a letter with 48 lawmakers, urging President Biden to use every tool he has to address rent inflation, end corporate price gouging in the rental market, and ensure that renters and people experiencing homelessness across this country are stably housed this winter. 

“The cost of rent for Americans is simply too high. In addition to making robust investments to address the housing shortage, we must use all our tools to protect tenants and reverse consolidation in the housing market that has given corporations unchecked power to inflate rents,” said Senator Warren. “This is why Rep. Bowman and I are encouraging the Biden Administration to make use of these tools and adopt a whole-of-government approach to address the housing crisis in America.”

“My community is being crushed by the burden of high prices and wages that can’t keep pace. Meanwhile, corporate landlords and other profit-driven companies are bringing in record profits. People simply cannot afford to live anymore,” said Representative Bowman. “We must pursue all options on the table that will help renters stay housed in the short-term, while also continuing to collaborate on efforts to realize long-term investments in our nation’s affordable and decommodified housing supply. I look forward to working with the Biden Administration to implement the policies outlined in our bicameral letter and do everything in our collective power to keep renters housed.”

In the letter, the lawmakers ask President Biden to support renters, address rent inflation, and combat corporate price gouging by:

  • Direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to establish renter protections for individuals residing in properties financed with government-backed mortgage properties, including anti-price gouging protections, just cause eviction standards, habitability standards, and protections against source-of-income discrimination. To prevent future abusive landlord practices, FHFA must enforce these standards and make public any steps it takes to hold landlords accountable.
  • Direct the Federal Trade Commission to issue new regulations defining excessive rent increases as a practice that unfairly affects commerce and enforce action against unfair rent gouging practices.
  • Direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue guidance to entitlement jurisdictions on the importance of mitigating cost burden and adopting anti-rent gouging measures as an important action for affirmatively furthering fair housing to ensure equal access to fair and affordable housing for all renters.
  • Encourage the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in conjunction with The Department of Justice and HUD, to investigate instances of corporate landlords discriminating against tenants unlawfully.
  • Encourage 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 by investing in homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes, as well as extending and strengthening emergency rental assistance programs. The Administration should also encourage states and localities to enact much-needed renter protections.
  • Activate Federal Emergency Management Agency resources to help move people experiencing homelessness into permanent, affordable homes and provide longer-term rental assistance to help keep renters stably housed.
  • Establish a Federal Interagency Council on Tenants’ Rights to identify interagency actions that can be taken to support renters; coordinate the implementation of policies to protect tenants; and engage renters in underserved communities in policy making efforts.

The letter is also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), and Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC), Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Cori Bush (D-MO),  André Carson (D-IN), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Al Green (D-TX), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Katie Porter (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Delia C. Ramirez, Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Mary Scanlon (D-PA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Mark Takano (D-CA), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The letter is endorsed by over 80 housing, climate, education, and immigration organizations including Homes Guarantee Campaign, People’s Action, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Housing Law Project, Groundwork Collaborative, Center for Popular Democracy Action, Debt Collective, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Liberation in a Generation, PolicyLink, Private Equity Stakeholder Project, Revolving Door Project, and Sunrise Movement.

Senator Warren has led the fight to make housing more affordable for families and has called out companies for their role in exacerbating housing costs: 

  • In November 2022,  Senators Warren, Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to RealPage CEO Dana Jones, expressing concern about RealPage’s algorithmic pricing software, YieldStar, and its role in driving rising rents and exacerbating inflation.
  • In August 2022, at a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (BHUA) Committee  hearing, Senator Warren called out corporate landlords’ growing role in the rental market and emphasized the need for a Tenant Protection Bureau to hold corporate landlords accountable and protect renters from extreme rent hikes, illegal eviction, and other predatory practices.
  • In May 2022, Senators Warren and Jack Reed (D-R.I) sent a letter calling on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to preserve homeownership affordability for American families as Wall Street firms expand their activity in the housing market.
  • In March 2022, at a BHUA Committee hearing, Senator Warren called out Wall Street’s role in worsening the housing affordability crisis for seniors by buying up manufactured home communities
  • In February 2022, Senator Warren called out private equity firms and other big investors for exacerbating inflation and locking families out of affordable housing opportunities. 
  • In January 2022, Senator Warren sent letters to the CEOs of three private equity-backed firms—Progress Residential, American Homes 4 Rent, and Invitation Homes —calling out their growing activity in the housing market that has resulted in rent hikes and unaffordable homes for first-time buyers.
  • In August 2021, during a hearing exchange with Senator Warren, a Department of Housing and Urban Development nominee committed to consider changes that facilitate sales of distressed homes to homeowners, not private equity firms.
  • In July 2021, Senator Warren called on large corporate landlords to avoid needless evictions as the CDC eviction moratorium neared expiration. 
  • In May 2021, at a hearing, Senator Warren made the case for her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which would create a new housing innovation grant program to reduce exclusionary local zoning laws.
  • On April 2021, Senator Warren and Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Mo.) reintroduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act to bring down the costs for renters and buyers, level the playing field so working families can find a decent place to live at a decent price, reduce exclusionary zoning laws, and take a step towards addressing the effects of decades of housing discrimination on communities of color.
  • In May 2019, Senator Warren and then-Representative Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) wrote to the private equity firms behind some of the country's largest manufactured housing communities to request information about their use of predatory practices to boost profits in the communities they own.