As part of the National Joint Platform we advocate for housing to become a human right through social housing, national rent control, legislation to address the influence of Wall Street on rental housing, and the elimination of discrimination in housing. To make housing a human right, there needs to be an emphasis on social housing, which will aid in maintenance of an adequate housing supply to meet demand and keep housing costs at affordable levels. Similarly, national rent control is a key part of a comprehensive housing plan that will protect tenants from unjust evictions and help with rent stabilization. Additionally, the need to address the increased influence of Wall St. in rental housing is attributed to studies showing corporate landlords will prioritize profits over people. Lastly, despite anti-discrimination housing legislation, there are still instances of discrimination against minorities, the LGBTQ community, section 8 voucher holders, and those with disabilities.
SOCIAL HOUSING (HOUSING AS A HUMAN RIGHT)
The private market strategies to increase the housing supply are deeply flawed and only provide minor relief at best. However, the government has the capability to significantly increase the housing supply by building decent and affordable social housing. Unlike public housing, which largely applies to those who are considered low income, social housing is housing for both low income and middle class individuals. In Austria, 80 percent of the population is eligible for their social housing program. If the government continues to maintain an adequate housing supply to meet demand then housing will be affordable and, if a program is more universal and helps the middle class as well, it becomes very difficult to defund and abolish. Data for Progress and the People’s Policy Project both outline policy recommendations to achieve a Homes Guarantee through social housing.
Some good examples of the government’s power to build a significant number of housing units are the UK effort post-WW2 and Sweden’s Million Homes project. After WW2, over 4 million homes were damaged or destroyed as a result of the war so the government under Clement Attlee stepped in to build over 1 million homes, 80% of which was council housing or social housing, from 1945-1951. These housing units were for individuals from different socio-economic backgrounds. Similarly, in the 1960s, Sweden began a government sponsored housing program to build 1 million homes, for the general public, in a decade, while demolishing 400,000 units of inferior or damaged housing stock. This was an amazing feat considering the total housing stock in Sweden was almost 3 million at the time. However, the government should be careful not to create an oversupply of housing units.
A social housing trust fund, funded by a payroll tax and similar to the social security and medicare trust funds, should be created to finance the construction of social housing units as well as to update and rehabilitate current public housing units. The updates should include the Green New Deal for Housing proposals made by Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. According to Data for Progress, the update would require $119-172 billion over a decade and would decarbonize over a million housing units, while possibly creating 240,000 jobs nationally per year. Public housing water bills would be reduced by 30% per year or $97 million and public housing energy bills would be reduced by 70% per year or $613 million.
NATIONAL RENT CONTROL
Our Homes Our Future rent control report
Enacting national rent control can aid in rent stabilization and prevent evictions. After completing a literature review, scholars from the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity found that rent control can prevent tenant evictions and moderate rent control does not impact the construction of new rental units. Similarly, a working paper from the Luskin Center for History and Politics at UCLA examined the implementation of rent control during two periods of shortage of affordable housing supply. The authors note that during the 1940s, when there were hundreds of thousands of workers who moved to LA to work jobs related to the war effort, rent control helped prevent dramatic increases in rent and decreased evictions until the housing supply was expanded. The paper also examines how rent control provided similar relief to tenants in the late 1970s amid a housing shortage due to a combination of high inflation and rising home values, property taxes, and rental rates. One can also look at the repeal of rent control in Massachusetts to see its role in protecting tenants. After the repeal of rent control in Massachusetts, eviction rates of formerly rent controlled units increased in the wake of rising gentrification and now, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Massachusetts is considered the third worst state to rent in. In conclusion, as scholars from USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley, through the HAAS Institute, convey that rent control and tenant protections are meant to be part of a comprehensive strategy to not only address the housing crisis, but to also push the US towards housing becoming a human right.
CDP National Platform
ADDRESSING THE INCREASED INFLUENCE OF WALL STREET IN RENTAL HOUSING
First, there is a growing presence of private equity firms buying manufactured housing or mobile homes. Investments in manufactured housing have increased and it is now considered a very profitable sector in real estate. Private equity firms and institutional investors own roughly 150,000 homes sites. Homeowners of manufactured housing own the homes, but not the land where those homes are located. These homeowners tend to be lower income with the median income of $30,000 per year and three-quarters of households earning less than $50,000 annually. More recently, we have seen how these corporate landlords treat the low income residents of mobile homes. In Iowa, Havenpark Capital bought five mobile parks and increased rent from 24% to 69%. In Sunnyvale, CA, the Carlyle Group purchased the Plaza del Rey mobile home park for $151 million and increased the rent by 8% annually since its acquisition of the park in 2015. For comparison, the previous owners would raise annual rents by 3% . Additionally these rent increases also hurt low income mobile homeowners who want to sell their mobile homes because realtors estimate that for every $100 increase in space rent, a manufactured home loses $10,000 in value.
Second, since the Great Recession in 2008, private equity firms have a greater presence in the rental market, namely through single-family rental housing. This is attributed to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac selling delinquent mortgages to Wall Street investment firms with 9 firms owning more than 200,000 single family homes in 13 states. This is deeply troubling as these corporate landlords care more about profits than the people renting the homes. The Atlanta Federal Reserve conducted a study in Fulton County Georgia that found, after adjusting for housing quality and neighborhood characteristics(education level, change in employment-population rate, etc), large corporate owners were 8 percent more likely than small landlords to file eviction notices. The study also found some of the largest firms file evictions on a third of their properties in a year and have an 18 percent higher housing instability rate even after adjusting for property and neighborhood characteristics. These findings are consistent with examples of these large firms treating tenants terribly. In 2015, Starwood Waypoint filed for eviction against one-third of the renters in Fulton County. In 2017, in Northern CA, Starwood Waypoint reported rent increases of 8 percent for tenants renewing their lease and 13 percent for new tenants with a total rental increase of 9.6 percent in Northern CA and 6 percent in Southern CA.
ELIMINATING DISCRIMINATION IN HOUSING
Although incidences of overt housing discrimination have decreased significantly over the years, there are still incidences of discrimination by real estate agents and brokering firms through the practice of steering. More recently, through an undercover investigation, Newsday uncovered real estate agents discriminating against minority home buyers in Long Island, NY. The investigation found real estate agents frequently directing white home buyers to neighborhoods with a higher percentage of white residents, while minority customers were steered towards more integrated neighborhoods with fewer white residents. Real estate agents also provided white customers with 50% more listings than their black counterparts, who were given the smallest number of listings in areas with the highest number of white residents and put under greater financial scrutiny. In addition to steering, a recent study found African American households pay more for identical housing in identical neighborhoods than their white counterparts and with increasing composition of white residents resulting in a higher rent gap between whites and blacks. Similarly, there is discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders, same sex couples, transgendered individuals, and those with disabilities when they try to rent. According to a joint study conducted by the Urban Institute and HUD, there is continued discrimination against section 8 voucher holders with landlords more likely to deny voucher holders in higher income and lower poverty areas. A separate study conducted by HUD found discrimination against same-sex couples in the electronic rental market as they were less likely to recieve an email responding to their online inquiry about advertised units on the rental market when compared to heterosexual couples. A Suffolk University Law School study found transgendered and gender nonconforming people, who were looking for an apartment to rent, received discriminatory differential treatment 61 percent of the time. A 2015 study conducted by HUD found that when homeseekers who are deaf or hard of hearing, and use assistive technology, try to inquire about recently advertised rental housing they are less likely to have a provider respond to their inquiries and, when there is a response, these individuals are shown fewer available units. The study also found discrimination against individuals who use wheelchairs as they were more likely to be denied appointmets to view recently advertised rental units.
A study by professors from the University of Alabama School of Law found same-sex male co-applicants, who filed a Fair Housing Administration(FHA) loan application, were significantly less likely to be approved when compared to a heterosexual white couple. The study does find that states who pass anti-sexual orientation discrimination laws are much less likely to have these patterns of discrimination.
Lastly, there is legitimate concern about the connection between housing discrimination and environmental injustice. A 1998 study found blacks and hispanics were more likely to live next to Superfund hazardous waste sites in Florida, even after adjusting for income and poverty indicators. A more recent study conducted by the United Church of Christ, in collaboration with several scholars from different universities, found that people of color made up the majority of individuals who lived within 3 kilometers of a hazardous waste facility. The more recent study does contrast with the 1998 study as there is a greater link between poverty and race of the individuals who live near these hazardous waste sites. Similarly, a 2016 study conducted by the Center for Effective Government found minorities were twice as likely as whites to live near dangerous chemical facilities, they were twice as likely as whites to live near a fenceline zone of an industrial facility, and children of color make up almost two-thirds of the 5.7 million children who live within one mile of a high risk chemical facility in the US. This is all consistent with other studies linking environmental injustice to race.