Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plan for Tenant Protections

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks with supporters after filing to have her name listed on the New Hampshire primary ballot on Nov. 13, 2019, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(CN) – “Rent burdened,” the position of spending a third of one’s income on housing, afflicts some 38% of Americans. Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren released a new plan Monday to address that and other problems renters face. 

“Everyone in America should have a decent, affordable, and safe place to live,” Warren posted online this morning. “But today, stagnant wages, sky-rocketing rents, and a stark shortage of affordable options are putting the squeeze on America’s 43 million renting households.”

Balking at the systemic disinvestment by Washington, a lack of affordable housing and high energy costs because homes are energy inefficient, the Massachusetts senator also noted that the poor and people of color tend to be hit the hardest.

“Fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), housing segregation endures, gentrification is pushing communities of color out of the neighborhoods they built, people with disabilities face pervasive discrimination, and nearly a quarter of transgender people report experiencing housing discrimination,” Warren wrote. 

The new plan has four parts: to protect and uphold tenants’ rights, tackle rent increases, invest in housing that’s good for the planet, and fight corporate landlords. 

A separate housing plan by Warren would create over 3 million new affordable housing units and bring down rents by 10% nationwide, she said. 

She notes that more than 805,000 renter households were evicted in 2017, a trend she attributes to laws in much of the country that allow for no-cause evictions and allow landlords to raise rents after kicking out tenants. In other cases, landlords force out tenants by turning off the heat or neglecting repairs, or retaliate against tenants for organizing against them.

Among court eviction proceedings in 2010, 90% of landlords had lawyers while 90% of tenants did not. Warren said she wants to create a fund to help pay tenant lawyers and establish both a tenant complaint hotline and a Tenant Protection Bureau within the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She would also create an Innovation Lab within HUD to strategize ways to keep rents affordable, she added.

Warren promised to create a federal standard where landlords need just cause to evict, as well other protections states would have to adopt them if they want $500 billion in funding for new affordable housing. She also said she’d reverse course on certain Trump administration actions, such as his effort to make a work requirement for housing assistance. 

Under a Warren administration, there would be a program for families who temporarily find themselves short on rent, and she said she would also deny federal funding to police departments that criminalize homelessness. She also would crack down on predatory lenders and invest in public housing, tackling the $70 billion backlog of repairs and making units safe, accessible, and adaptable to climate change. 

“As we fight to end homelessness and expand affordable housing, we won’t leave any groups behind,” Warren promised. 

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