Newly Released Administration Initiatives Aim to Make Affordable Housing a Reality

As a follow-up to last year’s Housing Supply Action Plan and Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, The White House has recently released a set of new measures designed to boost the availability of affordable housing options. The initiatives aim to prioritize transparency and fairness for tenants, as well as involve collaboration among various federal agencies.[1] A further announcement by the Treasury Department expanded on several existing initiatives to fund affordable housing in collaboration with The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Industry groups have generally applauded the Administration’s efforts to promote affordable housing, tempered with some disagreement as to how these efforts can best be accomplished.

In its February 29 press release, The White House shared the following efforts to achieve their affordable housing goals:

  • FFB Risk Sharing Extended: The Federal Financing Bank Risk Sharing program, which provides affordable financing for multifamily housing, will be extended indefinitely.  
  • HOME Program Streamlined: HUD will simplify application procedures for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which supports affordable housing projects.
  • Funding for Senior Housing: $115 million will be allocated for the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing for low-income seniors.
  • Tax Credit Relief: The IRS clarified that low-income housing tax credits designated for disaster areas in 2021 and 2022 can now be used for any qualified project. 
  • Fees in HUD Programs: HUD reiterated that specific fees, like application and screening charges, are prohibited in certain programs.
  • Tenant Rights on Military Bases: The Department of Defense will implement a Tenant Bill of Rights across all its bases by the end of 2024.
  • Eviction Protections: HUD released resources outlining situations where evictions cannot occur and proposing recommendations for states. Protections include “just cause” eviction requirements and increased access to legal aid for tenants. 
  • Renter Screening: A joint fact sheet from the FTC, CFPB, DOJ, and HUD will address renter rights during the screening process.

Several days after the initial White House’s announcement, the Treasury Department released its own additional initiatives,[3] including:

  • State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF): New guidance for the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) efforts making it easier for recipients of SLFRF to use remaining funds to construct affordable housing;
  • Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA): New clarifications to the ARP’s program to make it clear that qualifying recipients can use remaining funds on a broad range of uses to fund affordable housing serving very low-income families; and
  • Federal Financing Bank’s (FFB) Risk Sharing Program: An extension of the FFB’s financing support for a risk-sharing initiative between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and state and local housing finance agencies in order to lower the cost of creating and preserving affordable housing.

While industry groups support the Administration’s desire to bolster desperately needed affordable housing units in the United States, there is some disagreement as to how these efforts can best be accomplished. In response to the Administration’s recent announcement, both the National Apartment Association (NAA) and The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) released statements outlining their perspectives on behalf of their members and the industry they represent. The NAA generally supports the Housing Supply Action Plan, particularly the extension of FFB Risk Sharing. However, the NAA expressed concern regarding potential federal overreach in landlord-tenant relations, citing proposals that may conflict with existing state regulations and complicate compliance for housing providers.[2]  

The NMHC had similar feedback on the initiatives, stating “[w]e applaud efforts such as the Biden Administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan that demonstrates a focus on increasing housing supply, including support for expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the newly announced additional Federal investments in increasing housing supply.”[3] NMHC also expressed its disagreement with the initiatives’ limitations on certain industry fee for services options, stating that “[t]hese efforts are concerning because they will hurt renters by undermining the Administration’s objectives of lowering housing costs, driving new housing development and creating more affordable rental housing.”

While the newly released initiatives by the Administration are commendable for addressing the pressing need for affordable housing in the United States, there is a delicate balance to strike with the demands of housing providers. The efforts to protect tenants, though well-intentioned, may inadvertently impose burdens on the industry, potentially hindering the very goal of increasing affordable housing supply. Concerns about potential federal overreach in landlord-tenant relations add another layer of complexity. The risk of conflict with existing state regulations could complicate compliance for housing providers, making it even more challenging to navigate the regulatory landscape. As with all regulatory efforts, the ultimate impact of these initiatives on affordable housing availability is uncertain. It is crucial to monitor their effects closely to ensure that the intended outcomes are achieved without imposing undue costs on the industry or compromising the quality of housing provided. To truly enhance affordable housing availability, a balanced approach is needed — one that safeguards tenant rights while also fostering an environment conducive to development, investment and innovation in the housing sector.

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