By KIMBERLEY HAAS
The Biden-Harris administration announced new actions to protect renters this week and leaders at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development celebrated helping over 100,000 families through their homelessness initiative.
On Wednesday, administration officials issued a fact sheet describing key actions officials are taking “to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing.”
- Identifying practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing.
- Ensuring accurate information in the credit reporting system and holding background check companies accountable for unreasonable procedures.
- Providing guidance updates around anti-competitive information sharing, including in rental markets.
- Requiring public housing authorities and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to provide at least 30 days advanced notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment of rent.
According to officials, over a third of the American population rents their homes. That is about 44 million households.
“Before the pandemic, well over two million eviction fillings and roughly 900,000 evictions occurred annually – disproportionately affecting Black women and their children. Since then, rental housing has become less affordable with some landlords taking advantage of market conditions to pursue egregious rent increases. 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 press release states.
Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Sandra Thompson issued a statement on Wednesday about tenant protections.
Thompson said they are committed to ensuring that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate in a safe and sound manner while also promoting equitable access to affordable and sustainable housing.
“As part of our work on the White House Tenant Protection Interagency Policy Council, FHFA will conduct a public stakeholder engagement process to identify tangible solutions for addressing the affordability challenges renters are facing nationwide, particularly among underserved communities. The proposals discussed during this process will focus on properties financed by the enterprises. Our process will be transparent and seek broad participation from diverse voices,” Thompson said.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been instructed to explore the feasibility of expanding tenant protections for properties they finance and to identify strategies and activities that would facilitate a greater amount of affordable rental housing supply, Thompson said.
On Thursday, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge announced their House America program has helped more than 100,000 households experiencing homelessness.
Fudge pledged that they will continue to work to house Americans until homelessness ends.
“Everyone deserves a safe, stable place to call home. Through House America, I’m proud to see that communities have stepped up to get people off the streets and into homes,” Fudge said in a statement.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is deploying a Housing First approach, using American Rescue Plan funding and other resources to help individuals find a place to call home. We will continue to work to house America until we end homelessness as we know it.”
House America’s 105 communities received money through the American Rescue Plan, including more than 20,000 Emergency Housing Vouchers and over $1.5 billion HOME-ARP from HUD, as well as over $65 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
According to a report published this week, nearly 600,000 Americans are unhoused on any night, a slight increase over pre-pandemic numbers.
California, New York, Florida, Washington, and Texas are the states with the highest number of unhoused individuals.
“Among major cities, Los Angeles (54,469 individuals) and New York City (32,308) have the largest unhoused populations, collectively accounting for nearly one-fifth of the country’s total afflicted. No other city contains more than 10,000 persons experiencing homelessness, with Seattle, San Jose, and Oakland/San Francisco rounding out the top five afflicted metroplexes,” the report states.
The Security.org team used figures on homelessness from HUD’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Reports to Congress, with the latest statistics derived from its 2022 Point in Time homelessness count, according to their report.
Homelessness has been making the news across the country.
An art gallery owner who was captured on video spraying a homeless woman with a garden hose in California was arrested last week on a charge of battery after a clip of the incident was posted online.
The video taken earlier this month sparked outrage in San Francisco and beyond.
According to Richard Luscombe and Maanvi Singh at The Guardian, San Francisco officials have been banned from clearing homeless encampments, citing people for sleeping in public, or seizing their belongings amid a federal lawsuit alleging that the city punishes unhoused people for being on the street without providing them with appropriate care and housing.
They report there have been several recent videos of San Francisco residents attacking unhoused people.
In Manchester, NH, city officials were able to evict people from a homeless encampment last week after a judge ruled they could do so. Ray Brewer of WMUR-TV reported about 50 people were displaced.
Manchester police are getting set to evict people from this encampment on Manchester and Pine Streets. pic.twitter.com/tpjIlRtyVa
— Ray Brewer (@RayBrewerWMUR) January 18, 2023
Two blocks northeast of the White House in Washington, D.C., a tent city at McPherson Square still stands. Officials from the National Park Service plan to address the issue by mid-April, according to Kevin Lewis at WJLA-TV.
Bernice Norman, an Arkansas native who has lived in the square for around four months, told Lewis it is not a safe place.
“You’re out in the open. You’re not in a house or in a facility with doors where you can have a shower with running water and all that,” she said.
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