Recently we were excited to see the White House release its Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights to promote fair housing for renters.
The administration collected input from people around the country over six months. The participants included tenants, housing providers, legal associations, and advocates. They held listening sessions, roundtable discussions, and stakeholder meetings across the United States.
"Over 44 million households, or roughly 35 percent of the U.S. population, live in rental housing. And while federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and Fair Credit Reporting Act offer renters certain focused protections, there is no comprehensive set of federal laws protecting renters. Instead, our nation's rental market is defined by a patchwork of state and local laws and legal processes that renters and rental housing providers must navigate." -The Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights
We see firsthand how difficult it is for renters, and sometimes landlords, to navigate this patchwork of rules and laws. By compiling actionable principles into a Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, the federal government has begun a long-overdue process of codifying tenants' rights and putting processes in place to make them law.
The Blueprint lists five common-sense principles, each followed by an explanation about why the principle is important. This is followed by a "from principle to practice" section demonstrating real-life examples of the principle. Each section then concludes with an overview of new federal actions related to the principle.
The five principles of the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights are:
Access to Safe, Quality, Accessible, and Affordable Housing
Clear and Fair Leases
Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Rights
The Right to Organize
Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief
What does the White House's Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights mean for people in the Chicago area – especially those in the Chicago suburbs?
According to our Assistant Director of Fair Housing, Dominic Voz, the Blueprint aligns with some existing and proposed rules and laws in our area.
For example, the Blueprint's first principle, access to safe, quality, accessible, and affordable housing, promotes the importance of having healthy and safe housing. In the Chicago area, we have the proposed Healthy Homes Ordinance. We support this ordinance and would like more robust property inspections in Chicago's north and northwest suburbs. For example, in Evanston, updating the property inspection process would help to ensure safe and healthy housing and identify issues before they result in adverse health issues.
Also found in the Blueprint's first principle is the need to make rental housing more affordable. The solutions to this vexing problem are in front of us as long as our leaders can find the political will. We work daily to advocate for rules and laws to help curb displacement and provide dignity and resources to renters who have to move through no fault of their own.
"We are excited to work closely with the city of Evanston this year to implement stronger laws for tenants and landlords. And we are discussing working with other north and northwest suburban towns and municipalities." - Assistant Director of Fair Housing, Dominic Voz
The Blueprint for a Renter's Bill of Rights benefits everyone, including landlords. By strengthening the rules and regulations for the tenant screening process, which we desperately need to reform, the administration ensures that both renters and landlords can rely on accurate reporting on things like credit and criminal background screenings. Locally, we can help landlords consider more holistic ways to screen tenants instead of relying on outdated and often discriminatory data.
According to the document,
"These principles will, where possible, guide future federal policies and programs and updates to rulemaking, guidance, and notices governing existing policies and programs." -The Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights
We are grateful to the Biden administration, the tenants, landlords, and housing leaders who created the Blueprint for a Renter's Bill of Rights. It is the first step towards establishing a more stable and dignified life for renters across the nation.