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How Will HUD’s Policies Under the Biden Administration Affect the Industry?

Modern residential district with houses and apartment buildings viewed from above.

Biden’s housing priorities are significant, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) certainly will play a critical role. His team has already released the list of agency review advisors who will help to ensure that HUD is prepared to meet the nation’s urgent housing challenges from day one. A number of high-profile names are being floated to lead the agency as well. The National Apartment Association (NAA) has analyzed the records of the HUD advisors named to the transition team and potential secretary picks to predict how the agency’s priorities may change under the Biden Administration and affect the rental housing industry.

At the helm, Erika Poethig, Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at the Urban Institute, leads the HUD transition team. Poethig, also former Acting HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy, Research, and Development under President Obama, helped establish the White House Council on Strong Cities and Strong Communities. During her tenure at the Urban Institute, Poethig has shown strong support for reducing regulatory barriers, at all levels of government, that prevent the development of affordable housing. Her stance very much aligns with President-Elect Biden’s goal to tie federal funding for municipalities to the elimination of these barriers. Additionally, Poethig has advocated for greater public subsidies to help offset the high cost of new multifamily construction and increase overall housing affordability.

Alongside Poethig, the HUD transition team is heavily weighted with former HUD staff from the Obama Administration and housing advocates from organizations like the Urban Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the New York University’s Furman Center. While we agree with these organizations in their support of rental assistance, we disagree with their support of rent control, source of income protections for voucher holders, eviction moratoria and other displacement prevention measures for renters affected by COVID-19 that unfairly put the financial burden of the crisis on housing providers. While Biden has not officially lent his support to these policies, his rhetoric during the campaign season and choice of HUD transition advisors would suggest a willingness to consider these ideas as his housing priorities continue to take shape.

Biden’s team has also hinted at potential picks to lead HUD, signaling former Jacksonville, Fla. mayor Alvin Brown as the top candidate. Brown’s consideration comes as a surprise to some Floridians given his quiet housing recording in Jacksonville. His value, according to insiders, comes from the relationships that he has cultivated with top federal and state lawmakers.

Maurice Jones, another Obama-era HUD veteran, is also under strong consideration for the top job. As CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Jones has helped provide private financing for more than 400,000 affordable homes. Jones’ expertise in housing finance would align directly with Biden’s call to direct more than $100 billion to affordable housing development. 

Further down Biden’s shortlist for HUD Secretary are California Congresswoman Karen Bass, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Diane Yentel, President & CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). Rep. Bass and Mayor Bottoms bring experience in community activism from two of the nation’s largest cities, Los Angeles and Atlanta, respectively, while

Yentel, also a former HUD staffer under President Obama, is well-known amongst progressive leaders and renters’ rights advocates. Under Yentel’s leadership, the NLIHC outlined a number of policy initiatives that the Biden Administration could pursue to end homelessness and achieve housing justice, including support for:

  • Continued extension of the federal eviction moratorium (going a step further to suggest “automatic, universal” eviction protections for renters);
  • Funding for legal defense and federal “right to counsel” for renters in eviction courts;
  • Federal just cause eviction protections;
  • Adding source of income to the list of protected characteristics in the Fair Housing Act;
  • Enforcing the 2016 approach to the Fair Housing Act liability rule which holds housing providers accountable for their residents’ discriminatory conduct; and
  • Restrictions on resident screening criteria through federal fair housing laws and guidance, including lookback periods on criminal history and limitations on types of history that may be considered.

As the industry anxiously awaits to learn whether the next administration will extend the CDC’s federal eviction moratorium or continue its protections in some other form moving forward, NAA continues its advocacy efforts on behalf of the industry to push for balanced housing policy. Importantly, more work must be done to help rental housing owners and operators affected by COVID-19. NAA stands ready to work with the next Administration and Congress to help tackle the housing challenges our country faces and serve as the leading voice for the rental housing