"My community is being crushed by the burden of high prices and wages that can't keep pace. Meanwhile, corporate landlords and other profit-driven companies are bringing in record profits," said Bowman.
A pair of progressives in Congress on Monday led four dozen other lawmakers in calling on U.S. President Joe Biden "to pursue all possible strategies to end corporate price gouging in the real estate sector and ensure that renters and people experiencing homelessness across this country are stably housed this winter."
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) spearheaded the letter to the president, which commends actions his administration has taken so far but also stresses that soaring rent rates are affecting millions of people and more must be done to help them take on profit-driven corporate interests.
"No one should be unhoused in the wealthiest nation on Earth or have to choose between paying rent and basic needs."
The letter highlights various government statistics, including that the cost of shelter rose 0.8% last October, the highest rate in 40 years; median asking rents have jumped 31% while house prices have soared 48% in recent years; and a $100 increase in median rent is tied to a 9% rise in homelessness.
"The cost of rent for Americans is simply too high," Warren said in a statement. "In addition to making robust investments to address the housing shortage, we must use all our tools to protect tenants and reverse consolidation in the housing market that has given corporations unchecked power to inflate rents."
"This is why Rep. Bowman and I are encouraging the Biden administration to make use of these tools and adopt a whole-of-government approach to address the housing crisis in America," she explained.
\u201cI grew up in rent controlled apartments and public housing, and that housing stability is what allows me to be here today. I\u2019m grateful to my colleagues and organizers who are fighting to ensure everyone has access to high-quality, affordable housing.\u201d— Congressman Jamaal Bowman (@Congressman Jamaal Bowman) 1673279388
Specifically, the letter—which comes just three weeks after Biden unveiled a plan to reduce homelessness 25% by 2025—calls on the administration to:
- Direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency to establish protections for renters at properties financed with government-backed mortgages;
- Order the Federal Trade Commission to craft a regulation defining excessive rent hikes as a practice that unfairly affects commerce;
- Require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue guidance on anti-rent gouging and fair housing to cities and counties receiving federal funds;
- Urge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Justice, and HUD, to investigate corporate landlords accused of illegally discriminating against tenants;
- Encourage states to enact renter protections as well as use American Rescue Plan funding to invest in affordable homes and emergency rental assistance programs;
- Activate Federal Emergency Management Agency resources to help people experiencing homelessness secure permanent, affordable housing and provide longer-term rental assistance; and
- Create a Federal Interagency Council on Tenants' Rights to identify actions that can be taken to support renters, coordinate policy implementation, and engage with underserved communities.
Along with the 50 lawmakers across both chambers of Congress, the letter is backed by more than 80 housing, climate, education, and immigration groups, including the Center for Popular Democracy Action, Debt Collective, Groundwork Collaborative, National Low Income Housing Coalition, People's Action, Revolving Door Project, Sunrise Movement, and Youth Alliance for Housing.
"My community is being crushed by the burden of high prices and wages that can't keep pace," said Bowman, who represents parts of New York City and communities to the north. "Meanwhile, corporate landlords and other profit-driven companies are bringing in record profits. People simply cannot afford to live anymore."
"We must pursue all options on the table that will help renters stay housed in the short-term, while also continuing to collaborate on efforts to realize long-term investments in our nation's affordable and decommodified housing supply," he added. "I look forward to working with the Biden administration to implement the policies outlined in our bicameral letter and do everything in our collective power to keep renters housed."