PolicyLink Urges FHFA to Secure Tenants' Housing Futures Through Multifamily Tenant Protections

In January 2023, the Biden Administration took unprecedented action on tenant issues by releasing the Blueprint for a Renters’ Bill of Rights, which uplifted five principles of tenant protections that are necessary to promote fairness for renters across the country. Among other agency actions, the Blueprint called on the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to conduct stakeholder outreach to identify the opportunities of enforcing tenant protections such as rent regulations.

On May 30, 2023, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) published a Request for Input on multifamily tenant protections that could expand protections to millions of tenants across the country. The RFI generated over 3000 public comments, two-thirds of which were from tenants and allies calling for the implementation of tenant protections such as rent regulation, just cause eviction protections, and the prohibition of source of income discrimination. To read the comments, visit this FHFA website and select “Tenant Protections” from the dropdown menu.

On July 31, 2023, PolicyLink submitted a comment to the FHFA and encouraged the agency to implement and enforce a range of tenant protections that will advance equity and fair housing in the private rental market. Our recommendations to FHFA included:

  • Partnering with HUD to release regularly updated Fair Housing Guidance that provides GSEs with clear and timely expectations on how to fulfill their AFFH duties;
  • Recommending that HUD issue a rule or guidance explicitly recognizing that a lack of tenant protection policies has a disparate impact on renters of color, thereby violating the Fair Housing Act;
  • Creating equitable tenant screening practices and require that landlords of properties with federally-backed mortgages adopt those tenant screening practices as a condition of agency financing;
  • Requiring a prohibition on source of income discrimination as a condition of its financing, thus requiring all borrowers to accept vouchers;
  • Developing standard fair lease provisions and require landlords of federally-backed homes to use them;
  • Taking action to prevent excessive rent increases in properties with federally-backed mortgages through rent regulation that caps rents at 3 percent annually;
  • Imposing just cause eviction protections as a condition for receiving FHFA financing; 
  • Expanding the tenant right to counsel to tenants of federally-backed homes, and guaranteeing this right by providing funding to states that enact such a policy.
  • Articulating a clear set of habitability standards with which borrowers must comply through regulation that protects tenants from landlord retaliation.
  • Incorporating a tenant and community opportunity to purchase for all buildings with FHFA-backed mortgages to create opportunities for preservation and long-term affordability;
  • Creating a rental registry that is publicly searchable and accessible to the public, in which all federally-backed multifamily homes are listed.

On January 3, 2024, the Federal Housing Finance Agency released a summary of the responses it received from the Request for Input (RFI). The report includes and uplifts many of the recommendations PolicyLink and our partners suggested to address significant equity and fair housing issues for the millions of tenants who live in federally-backed multifamily homes. Our recommendations that were named in the FHFA summary include: 

  • Banning source of income discrimination on any legal source of income
  • Taking action to support existing federal fair housing laws
  • Addressing the use of criminal and credit screening at Enterprise-backed multifamily properties
  • Providing model leases to convey expectations for borrowers with Enterprise-backed mortgages
  • Developing a rental registry where multifamily property owners would provide property ownership and contact information
  • Mandate that tenants have a right to counsel
  • Prohibit multifamily property owners with Enterprise-backed mortgages from pursuing evictions without just cause
  • Prevent excessive rent increases
  • Define a new set of habitability standards

In addition to FHFA’s summary, the Homes Guarantee campaign completed its own thorough analysis of each of the 3,537 comments submitted to the Request for Input. This robust analysis not only looks at the content of every comment but also provides summary statistics on which groups submitted comments. Read the Homes Guarantee analysis here

FHFA noted in its summary that a policy’s inclusion in the summary does not represent an obligation to provide support for any of the policies. In the coming months, PolicyLink will be working with partners — especially the Homes Guarantee campaign, of which we are a member — to continue the important work of advocating for federal action on these suggested policy priorities so that the voices of thousands of renters and advocates are heard and acted upon.

Read comments submitted by PolicyLink and our partners below:

Other press:

Learn more about FHFA and the various tenant protections that PolicyLink and our partners encouraged FHFA to consider: