Biden’s Renters’ Rights Blueprint: Meaningful or Not?

What should we make of the administration’s tenants' rights announcement?

2 minute read

February 15, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By LM_Ortiz


The Biden administration’s announcement on renters' rights on January 25 was a strange mix of radical and nothingburger.

On the one hand, outside of a few very important but narrowly focused laws like the Fair Housing Act, the federal government has, until now, not seen broad tenant protections as within its sphere of action at all. Anything to do with eviction policies, habitability and codes, or regulating rent increases has been left to states and localities. Someone asked me right after the announcement if I knew how long it had been since a president addressed tenant rights—they guessed the 1970s. Having recently edited a history of the National Tenants Union in the 1970s and ’80s, that era was fresh in my mind and I knew that despite active tenant organizing, federal action at the time was not pro-tenant, so I went back further and guessed the New Deal. But the New Deal was really focused on homeowners and creating public housing. I haven’t actually been able to find anything comparable in our history about renter rights and protections at all.

In that way, this is a really big deal. By taking it on at all, by making even a theoretical Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, the Biden administration is acknowledging that this is something that the federal government has a legitimate interest in, power to act on, and responsibility to take seriously.

A year ago or so, we hosted a chat about security deposit policy in the U.K. Even more than the details of their policy, I remember that everyone in the office was mind-blown by the idea of a federal government that has a tenant policy. One where even Boris Johnson had to at least make a nod to wanting to support tenants somehow.

And so, the Biden announcement feels like it could be the beginning of a tremendous sea change. The administration has declared that the leases of today are a problem (we agree). It is engaging the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against the abuses of tenant screening companies, which could lead to real improvements in tenants’ lives if a crackdown occurs.

But most notable to me was the willingness to even state the phrase ...

[See full article, linked below, to continue reading.]

Monday, February 6, 2023 in Shelterforce Magazine

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Green meadow with water running through and trees on either side in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Meadow Undergoing Major Restoration

Rangeland recently acquired from private owners is being restored to a more natural state thanks to a purchase by the Trust for Public Land.

7 hours ago - San Francisco Chronicle

Large black SYV driving down city street with blurred background.

GAO to Investigate How Vehicle Design Impacts Safety

A lax set of rules around vehicle size, height, and other factors is partly responsible for the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths in the United States.

June 17 - Streetsblog USA

Worker in yellow safety suit holding up orange SLOW sign on road

New Orleans Faces $1 Billion Shortfall for FEMA-Funded Roadwork

After years of delays, cost overruns, and deadline extensions on a FEMA-funded street repair program, New Orleans officials face a massive funding shortfall and accusations of mismanagement.

June 17 - NOLA.com

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.