Tell the government to protect

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The rent is too damn high. Eviction rates are higher than they were before the pandemic. Landlords have too much power over our lives and our homes. They hike our rent, offer slow maintenance or none at all, evict us, and discriminate. This is all part of how they make money.

The government is in business with many landlords, offering them favorable loan terms to finance their businesses and, sometimes, enabling their predatory behavior. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also known as the “Government Sponsored Enterprises,” work with banks to offer $150 billion to landlords in financing every year, without any strings attached.

Here’s the good news: As a result of tenant organizing, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie and Freddie, is now deciding whether to condition government-backed loans on a set of tenant protections. These protections could include regulations on rent hikes and evictions, housing safety requirements, bans on discrimination, and more. If enacted, they could benefit over 12.4 million rental homes across the country.

The FHFA is now seeking comments from tenants and advocates to inform this decision.

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Tips for Submitting

What should I include in my comment?

If you are a tenant, you should share any problems that you have experienced, and your envisioned solutions to them! Be specific.

Here are a few examples of the types of information that would be helpful to share. You do not need to answer all of these questions. Click here if you want to see the government’s full list of questions.

  • Has your rent been hiked? If so, how much? How did this impact you? Did you have to start working additional hours or jobs? Did you have to cut back on groceries? What do you want to see the federal government do to address rent hikes?
  • What are the main challenges to finding and keeping affordable housing for you?
  • Has your landlord filed an eviction? If so, how did they notify you?
  • What are the conditions of your apartment unit like? Does the landlord repair things in a timely manner?

What are some solutions that I can suggest?

  • Rent regulations: Protect tenants from and limit egregious rent hikes.
  • Good cause eviction: Prohibit evictions without good cause, ensuring every tenant has the right to a lease renewal. Good cause is defined as serious and repeated lease violations provable in a court of law.
  • Ban source of income discrimination: Prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income including federal housing assistance (i.e., vouchers).
  • Freedom from discrimination: Enforce existing laws that prohibit landlords from denying a tenant rental housing based on race, physical or mental ability, and family make-up, and expand protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, immigration status, conviction and/or arrest history, bankruptcy history, eviction history, or credit score.
  • Safe, quality, accessible housing standards: Require all landlords to keep their properties in good condition, and to ensure homes are accessible for people with disabilities. No renter should have to live in an inaccessible home or in housing conditions that put their health and safety at risk.
  • Landlord registry: Tenants should have access to information about their landlord including their name and phone number.
  • Tenant right to organize: Tenants have the right to form tenants’ unions or resident councils free from fear of retaliation from the landlord or managing agent. Ownership and management representatives must not interfere with the creation or actions of tenant organizations.
  • Fair leases: Landlords must use standardized and clearly defined leases free of abusive terms.
  • Office of Tenant Protections: A team charged with protecting tenants and enforcing their rights in properties with federally backed mortgages.

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What are some values or principles that I can suggest FHFA follow?

  • Tenant Leadership: The FHFA must continue to engage with and follow the leadership of tenants and people directly impacted by the rental market.
  • Equity: Racial and social equity must be explicit goals of all regulations.
  • Mandatory Requirements: Tenant protections should be applied to all landlords with a federally backed-mortgage and all rental properties, including larger multifamily properties and smaller one-to-four-unit properties. Tenant protections should not be incentivized or volunteer based.
  • Enforcement: Landlords who violate FHFA’s tenant protections should be found to be in technical default and should not be eligible for future loans.

Background on the Process

What is a request for input?

A request for input is how the federal government solicits information from the general public on a set of topics to inform policy making. The FHFA needs to hear about real tenants’ experiences and the solutions that they want to see from the federal government. You can read the government’s full request for input here. The information that you share will be publicly available and in the written record. You can choose to submit your comment anonymously if you do not want your name publicly shared.

Who is the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)?

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is a federal agency tasked as the regulator and conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As a regulator, they make new rules for how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate. As conservator, FHFA acts as the board of directors for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Who are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? What do they do?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs). Banks like Wells Fargo or Chase make mortgages to landlords. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase these mortgages from the banks and take on the risk that they won’t be paid back. When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase mortgages it means that banks have more money on hand to make new mortgages. Every year Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchase $150 billion in mortgages for multi-family properties.

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