The multifamily industry continues to grapple with how to respond to the drastic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, legislative and regulatory developments are creating more questions than answers. During a recent webinar, industry experts shared their thoughts on key legislative changes of what’s to come. Below is a summary.
Shift in political control
- President Biden begins his term working with two Democrat-controlled chambers to enact significant legislative changes.
- This year sees the slimmest House of Representatives majority since the 1940s. The Senate is a 50/50 split with Vice President Harris as the presiding officer holding the tie-breaking vote.
- But don’t rule out Republicans. They need to peel off only a handful of Democrats in a close vote to turn the tide.
- Moderates hold a lot of power in determining in which direction bills go. Housing is a bi-partisan issue so moderates’ votes could easily sway in either party’s favor.
Federal housing mandates
The pandemic had extreme financial and housing ramifications, greatly impacting people’s ability to pay for housing and related expenses. In response, the government enacted assistance programs to help the millions who were struggling. Two of these programs are:
- Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)
On March 11, 2021 President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act. This act included $27.5 billion for emergency rental assistance to help ensure struggling families continue to have a safe place to live during the pandemic, as well as extended eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through September.
The 2021 relief package mandates that at least 90% must be used for current rent payments, utility payments and other pandemic-related housing expenses.
- Rent control
SB 5139 prohibits a rent increase for the six months following the end of the moratorium. Thereafter rent increases are limited to 3% plus Consumer Price Index for the successive six months ― which means renters get 12 months of housing assistance.
State and local mandates
In addition to federal mandates, state and local governments have imposed their own restrictions, including:
- Mandatory non-reporting of eviction records in New York and Texas
- Limited access to criminal history as part of fair-chance housing laws in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and St. Paul
- Limited access to and usage of credit history in New York and Illinois
- Government-run rental payment registry in Seattle and New York City
- Limits on the use of artificial intelligence in New York City
Get more insights from industry leaders
The webinar ― Deconstructing the Rental Housing Legislative Update ― covers important regulatory issues and the impact the new administration is expected to have on rental housing. Watch the on-demand webinar below.