Four new initiatives aim to widen access to affordable housing for Wisconsin renters this year

Apartment rents in Milwaukee continued to climb in 2022, highlighting the need for more affordable housing units and policies.
Apartment rents in Milwaukee continued to climb in 2022, highlighting the need for more affordable housing units and policies.

With rent costs continuing to rise, the federal government announced a set of initiatives it, and other stakeholders are taking to help preserve affordable housing for low-to-moderate-income renters.

Initiatives that will impact Wisconsin renters include a rent cap at some tax credit-funded properties, more leniency for some tenants behind on rent, a way to help renters more easily identify locations where they can use their vouchers and a new challenge for housing providers and tenants to identify ways to increase housing affordability.

The changes were highlighted in a White House statement released Wednesday.

In the statement, President Biden said the efforts align with other housing goals being pursued, such as implementing the Housing Supply Action Plan and increasing the number of Housing Choice Vouchers available to eligible families.

Some of the initiatives were created through federal programs while others are policy changes made by private organizations. Collectively, they aim to preserve and increase affordable housing access.

The National Apartment Association, composed of apartment owners and vendors, expressed disappointment with the new policies through its president and CEO Bob Pinnegar. “NAA also made clear the industry’s opposition to expanded federal involvement in the landlord/tenant relationship,” he said. “Complex housing policy is a state and local issue and the best solutions utilize carrots over sticks.”

However, the new initiatives were widely praised by the National Multifamily Housing Council and the Fair Housing & Community Development Project of a civil rights legal committee.

“The Biden administration’s announcement is an important step in the fight to ensure that all Americans have safe, decent, affordable housing,” Thomas Silversteinassociate director of the development project, said in a statement.

WHEDA is capping annual rent increases

Along with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority is capping all rent increases to 5% per year in all properties receiving state or federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

There are roughly 1,200 properties — or 28,000 affordable housing units — around the state fitting this criterion, according to the Housing and Urban Development Department database.

At properties using the fair market rent rate set by HUD, the cap would mean the monthly $1,092 rent for a two-bedroom unit could increase no more than $54.

Nationwide housing agency introduces new policies for tenants behind on rent

The Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future is a group of housing partners across the country that manage roughly 145,000 housing units across the country, including multiple properties in Wisconsin.

The group is partnering with the Biden administration to offer flexible payment plans for its tenants who have unpaid rent and are working with property managers to catch up. The changes include a five-day grace period for rent payments, a 30-day notice before asking tenants to leave for nonpayment of rent and a 60-day notice to tenants if the property where they live will be sold or experience any other change in ownership.

Here are the Wisconsin properties covered under the new policy: is adding a new voucher-friendly indicator to its landlord website, Avail

Many residents who are lucky enough to receive a Housing Choice Voucher experience difficulty finding places that will accept it, in spite of some municipalities’ laws making source-of-income discrimination illegal.

To help alleviate this issue, Rentals announced it will allow landlords to indicate whether they accept Housing Choice Vouchers through its website, Avail.

Avail is a software tool that allows to list their properties on multiple rental websites, accept applications and screen tenants with background checks among other services.

Those in search of properties will be able to see this on the tenant side of the website.

White House Resident-Centered Housing Challenge seeks partners across the country

The Biden administration is hoping to bring together housing providers, tenant advocates and other stakeholders, in what is being called the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge. With a planned launch for this spring, the administration is hoping both parties can develop strategies that could improve quality of life for renters.

The challenge also involves government on the state, local, tribal and territorial levels. The administration is also asking officials to identify policies that could make the rental market fairer and more transparent.

Talis Shelbourne is an investigative solutions reporter covering the issues of affordable housing, environment and equity issues. Have a tip? You can reach Talis at (414) 403-6651 or Follow her on Twitter at @talisseer and message her on Facebook at @talisseer.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: New initiatives for Wisconsin renters aim to keep housing affordable