White House launches plan to expand affordable housing, prevent evictions

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced several steps meant to ensure access to affordable housing and protect renters from eviction.

The measures unveiled Wednesday are part of the White House’s broader attack on the national affordable housing crisis, which has left millions of Americans struggling to find safe and secure housing within their budgets. The White House also aims to empower renters with new resources to challenge unfair treatment from landlords, leasing agents and others who may infringe on their legal rights.

“Our nation’s rental market is defined by a patchwork of state and local laws and legal processes that renters and rental housing providers must navigate,” wrote the White House Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council in a policy paper outlining the proposals.

“That patchwork of renters rights, a shortfall of affordable housing, and a longstanding challenge of rents rising faster than incomes contribute to housing insecurity that millions of American renters experience every year.”

A key focus of the administration’s plan is breaking barriers within the rental process that often keep lower-income and minority Americans out of affordable housing. Affordable housing supporters, tenants rights advocates and civil rights groups have expressed concerns about how inequities in the criminal justice system and financial sector could reflect negatively on tenants’ background checks and credit reports.

The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced they will begin collecting information and soliciting feedback on how “the creation and use of tenant background checks, the use of algorithms in tenant screenings, the provision of adverse action notices by landlords and property management companies, and how an applicant’s source of income factors into housing decisions,” the White House announced.

The agencies will also coordinate efforts to crack down on “unreasonable” background check procedures and inaccurate information on credit reports, both of which can prevent a potential tenant from being approved.

The administration is also attempting to defend tenants from rapid rent increases and abrupt evictions. A pending Department of Housing and Urban Development rule would require public housing authorities to give tenants 30 days notice before being evicted over non-payment of rent.

“Today’s announcements recognize there are responsible housing providers — large and small, national and local — willing to treat renters fairly, but it also holds accountable those who exploit market realities at the cost of renters’ housing access and stability,” the White House said.

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