High occupancy rates, persistent lack of adequate supply and rising inflation in the form of rents are all putting pressure on policymakers at all levels to act. NAA remains vigilant about the direction that many legislators are headed as pressing economic and political factors are driving their decision-making during the pandemic recovery. The following is what owners and management firms should expect in the coming year.
As mid-term elections always do, the campaigns for control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate will begin to stifle what little bipartisan collaboration exists in the 117th Congress soon after the second session begins in January 2022. With some potential exceptions, only so-called “must-pass” bills like appropriations, defense authorization and the like will cross the finish line in both the House and the Senate. This does not mean, however, that Committees in either chamber will sit idle. There will continue to be hearings and oversight on a wide range of issues. We expect heightened scrutiny of owner and management firms’ eviction, resident screening and debt collection practices. Interest in a federal “source of income” mandate and increasing corporate tax burdens also remain top of mind. While NAA continues its work to defeat adverse legislation, we press for our own policy priorities like the Yes In My Backyard Act (YIMBY Act), the Choice in Affordable Housing Act and a fix to the CARES Act 30-day notice-to-vacate requirement.
The Biden Administration knows that the capacity for Congress to legislate in an election year will be reduced and will likely respond with heightened regulatory actions. Any number of federal agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Treasury, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and others are already active in several housing policy areas. If the Administration cannot achieve its goals through Congress, then it will try to do so with its regulatory authority. In anticipation of this, NAA has begun to engage with federal agency staff to position us well for when agencies start to take action.
Given the glacial pace with which change happens at the federal level, we anticipate that housing justice advocates with a national presence will drive state and local advocacy campaigns through their networks and push policymakers for changes. Financial support and outside influence of these campaigns is unprecedented. Of great concern is the rise of interest in rent regulation measures.
In St. Paul and Minneapolis, advocates led successful voter campaigns to enact rent control by ballot measure, taking advantage of a narrow exception in the state’s preemption law. This movement in the Midwest establishes a very dangerous precedent for other local communities whose housing markets are under pressure. Interest in rent control (or “rent caps” as is the new popular marketing tactic) persists in likely and unlikely places across the country—places like California, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. We fully expect this to spread. In the face of strong popular support for these measures, our industry’s advocates continue to promote sustainable solutions to these housing challenges like removing barriers to development and increasing supply.
Also under the banner of housing justice, efforts to “level the playing field” in housing transactions will remain top of mind for policymakers in 2022. While lawmakers seek to reduce the burden of renters’ housing costs and significantly reduce their risk of displacement as the risk of COVID-19 lingers, property management and operations will be affected. Expect heightened interest in late fee laws, protecting “renters’ choice” in security deposits, resident screening limitations, just cause eviction and tenants’ right to counsel. It will be critical for rental housing industry professionals to remain engaged in the legislative process and work with industry advocates to prevent these government interventions.
We need you in 2022! Join us at Advocate from March 8 to 9, and learn five more ways to get involved anytime, anywhere. Your voice is critical to conversations about housing. Contact Austin O’Boyle, NAA’s Manager of Grassroots Engagement today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Brown is NAA SVP, Government Affairs. Nicole Upano is NAA AVP, Housing Policy and Regulatory Affairs.