Some cities found ways to make their emergency rental funds permanent through local taxes. And tenants fought hard for major victories like “good cause” eviction protections and rent control that could spread further across the country.
“I think a lot of cities are recognizing that we’re not really going to be able to get out of the housing crisis, and that even if we have one unit for every home, that’s not going to guarantee that people of color and less Tenants of tenants. Income renters will be able to access that housing and have housing stability,” said Rashidah Phillips, a former housing attorney and director of housing at PolicyLink.
According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, 29 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have passed new tenant protections starting in January 2021.
The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program allowed local programs to cover rent and utilities, but the assistance was temporary, and Funds are almost exhausted. However, some jurisdictions have found ways to replicate this with local funds. Jess Vansch, peer city manager for the Humane Solutions Lab at NYU’s Furman Center, points to cities like Boulder, Colorado, that are working to implement permanent eviction prevention programs.
“Boulder’s program is an amazing one. They developed a whole new system for the city,” said Wunsh.
of Boulder Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Services Program Funded by A Landlord Tax $75 per dwelling unit with rental license – Long-term rental fee for a unit. The program distributed $168,536 in financial assistance to tenants in its first year of operation. It also provides pro bono legal services and established a landlord-tenant mediation service. As a result, the percentage of evictions prevented increased by 26% in the first year of the program.
One of the growing tenant movements in the past few years has been the push for “good cause” (also known as “just cause”) eviction protection. These laws prohibit landlords from evicting tenants or refusing to renew leases without cause and generally limit evictions to situations where the tenant is behind on rent or causing a nuisance. is (This may seem like a low bar, but tenants in apartments with month-to-month contracts can be evicted at any time.)
Seven cities have passed good cause laws since 2021, including five in New York: Albany, Beacon, Kingston, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie. Of those New York cities, all but Bacon protect tenants from eviction due to excessive rent increases. Baltimore Good reason security has passed for the renewal of the lease, and in 2021 Washington Good cause became the latest state to pass the law.
Portland, Oregon, took a slightly different approach: In 2017, the city A law passed Landlords are required to pay a tenant rehabilitation fee if they issue a no-cause eviction, refuse to renew a lease, or raise the rent by 10%. That was the law Retained last year By the Oregon Supreme Court, so it’s likely here to stay.
And in the past few years, more cities are getting on board with rent control. New York State passed a 2019 law that allowed its top cities Opt for rent control If they have 5% rental housing vacancy or less. Previously, rent control laws only applied to New York City, Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties. In April, Kingston, New York, conducted a survey that revealed a vacancy rate of 1.57%, and it Voted to adopt Fare control on 28th July. The 1,200 units built before 1974, which are now covered by the law, will not see a rent increase until a rent guidelines board is appointed.
The biggest rent control victory of the past few years has been the Keep St. Paul Home campaign, which led to a Citywide rent control laws A ballot proposition was passed in November. The law, which took effect in May, limits rent increases to 3% per year for all residential units and makes no exceptions for new construction. While the law Making it easier for homeowners to file for exemptions, advocates say most are staying within the law’s limits.
Jasmine Rangel, a senior housing associate at PolicyLink, attributes the success of St. Paul and others like it to the work of tenants.
“These types of victories certainly would not have been possible without the work of tenants, tenant managers, tenant advocates and the Housing Justice Coalition,” Rangel said.
The biggest lesson from the past few years is that tenants have a much higher chance of success in housing court if they have an attorney. Because evictions take place in civil court, tenants do not have the same legal right to an attorney as constitutionally afforded defendants in criminal court. In 2017, New York City passed the first “right to counsel” law in the country, providing attorneys to low-income tenants facing eviction. Before the program Only 1% tenants The city had an attorney in housing court compared to 74% after the program was implemented. Nationally, less than 10% of tenants have an attorney during eviction proceedings, compared to 90% of landlords.
San Francisco, Boulder, Philadelphia, and Newark, New Jersey, all passed the right to counsel in subsequent years. As of 2021, Detroit; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; And Louisville, Kentucky, has added its name to that list, leveling the playing field for renters on a scale unimaginable just a few years ago.
These policies are more effective when they are combined with other reforms, including increased rental assistance and barriers to evictions. Philadelphia successfully a Tenant-landlord mediation process In 2020, which is mandatory before an eviction can be filed. Rather than a policy of letting landlords talk it over with tenants, it provides tenants with significant time and contact with other resources. Phillips, who helped administer the city’s eviction diversion program as a housing attorney, said the program’s success is in coordination with other resources as well as its mandatory nature. The program is funded until the end of 2022.
“Landowners were required to go through the program and there was a waiting period before they were able to file for eviction. Without that pre-filing aspect, we would have seen evictions go up much faster,” he said.
Similarly, in law Washington, DC; Lexington, Kentucky; And colorado 2021 have passed which forces landlords to wait longer before filing an eviction.
An underlying cause of the housing crisis is the federal government’s gradual disinvestment in affordable housing and public housing. Cities are turning to other sources of revenue to fund new housing. In Colorado, voters in five small towns, including Crested Butte and Telluride, Approved ballot measure Last year that would tax short-term rentals and use the funds for affordable housing.
Looking to the future, other areas are experimenting with distorted forms of housing that limit financial speculation. This can include community land trusts, in which a nonprofit owns the underlying land and leases the properties to tenants, typically offering membership on the nonprofit’s board of directors.
More areas are acquiring land to keep it affordable, either in the form of community land trusts, low-income cooperatives, or subsidized housing. San Francisco Last year $64 million was approved For its Small Sites program, which Buys buildings And offers them to nonprofits to keep them affordable forever. Tenants are also increasingly pushing for laws that allow them to make the first offer when a building goes up for sale. In rare cases, tenants have successfully convinced the city to buy their buildings. This was the case in Los Angeles, where the Hillside Villa Tenants Association lobbied its city council in the face of a 300% rent hike this May.
The wins are part of a trend: As the housing crisis worsens, renters are addressing the underlying power dynamics that have put them on the losing end of the market.
“The wins we’ve seen over the last few years really represent a collective shift in how we’re understanding housing and how we’re implementing structural policies that address structural barriers,” says Phillips. says Phillips.
Roshan Abraham is a writer covering politics based in Queens. His writing has appeared in Slate, The Guardian and The Baffler.
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