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As I See - It Looking Beyond Our City and State For Multifamily Housing Policy Trends



When I first took on the leadership of NBOA in the Fall of 2018, I knew that our organization would be advocating for neighborhood housing providers at the city, county and state levels of government.

Indeed we have. We made sure that our elected officials and the news media understood the consequences of ill-advised policies and legislation.

This year, we extended out fight to the federal level. Last January, President Joe Biden advanced a federal housing agenda purporting to protect renters and promote rental affordability. The “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights” calls for more than 20 federal agency actions intended "to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing.”

To quote my Jewish grandmother, “Oy."

I can already point to one glaring example of how federal intervention into local rental practices unnecessarily hurts our businesses and the very people it is intended to help.

In the early days of the Covid pandemic, Congress enacted the CARES Act which included a 120-day moratorium on evictions due to nonpayment of rent in all federally-assisted housing. Included in this law was a “notice to vacate” requirement, requiring housing providers to give their tenants a special 30-day prior to proceeding with an eviction. This superseded Illinois’ five-day notice requirement.

Those who draft legislation, especially in the early days of a national crisis, frequently make mistakes. In this case, the writers of this legislation neglected to make sure that this 30-day notice requirement expired with the other provisions of the CARES Act. Thus, the 30-day notice remains in effect throughout the country, and will remain so until Congress corrects this oversight legislatively.

Last month, I accompanied a group of colleagues from the Chicagoland Apartment Association to Washington, D.C.. Among the issues for which we lobbied was for legislation to remove the 30-day requirement. While there, I learned about the enormous hurdle we face trying to repeal a law that should no longer exist. My colleagues and I found ourselves in a congressional office trying to explain to the congressman’s young staff assistant the intricacies of the eviction process and why the federal government should not get involved in a profoundly local matter. I don’t think he understood.

The National Apartment Association Lobby Day took place on March 29th in Washington DC. It afforded many of us a chance to have productive meeting with Congressional staff including direct discussions with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (9th Congressional District. She offered members from the Chicagoland Apartment Association delegation, myself included, a chance to be part of this photo op from her office, including the incredible view from her window.

Clearly, “one size does not fit all” when it comes to landlord-tenant issues, and the federal government should not be issuing mandates on what should be purely local matters governing our industry. We all know that the local, county, and state officials are all too eager to intervene in the rental process. We have more than enough challenges on our hands explaining unintended consequences to officials at these three levels of government. We don’t need a fourth.

Shortly after learning about the White House initiative, I reached out to housing provider groups in other cities to find out what they thought of our President’s Blueprint. It’s no surprise that our housing provider counterparts in other cities, like Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Seattle and, of course, New York City are dealing with issues similar to ours.

The housing provider groups in Zoom calls I’ve organized shared their experiences dealing with a range of “pro-tenant” proposals, including “Just Cause Eviction” (also known as “Good Cause Eviction”) legislation which severely restricts a housing provider’s ability to non-renew a lease; requirements that housing providers rent to the first person who applies; burdensome zoning and building code restrictions that drive up the cost of new construction; and, of course, the granddaddy of them all – New York-style rent control.

Most of this bad legislation originates in cities on the East and West Coasts, and then moves into the heartland. Ironically, this legislation is promoted as “pro-tenant” and “pro-affordable housing” while the affordable housing crisis in those cities only gets worse.

Our housing provider groups are very fortunate that Forbes contributor and national spokesperson, Roger Valdez, participates in our calls.  Roger is a founder of Seattle for Growth (2013) and the Center for Housing Economics (2019), both based in Seattle where he lives.  RPBG writer Steve Cain featured Roger in a fabulous article in our Fall, 2021, RPBG Builder. 

In his article, Steve says: "Spend a little time with Roger, or read some of what he has written, and you will quickly discover that Chicago is far from the only place in the United States that is reeling from the newly energized left."

We are all painfully aware of this leftward political shift in Illinois and Chicago and its deleterious effect on housing and housing affordability. Sadly, we are not alone. This far left housing legislation is part of a national movement.

It’s more imperative than ever before to become involved with groups like the RPBG, the Neighborhood Building Owners Alliance and other housing provider advocacy organizations. Reach out to me if you know of groups in other cities who may want to participate in these conversations. We can learn from one another.

We are stronger together. We must unite with other housing providers across the nation to fight against unwise legislation that prevents us from providing safe, affordable, and plentiful housing. We must urge our elected officials across our nation—and at all levels of government—to see neighborhood housing providers as part of the solution to our housing crisis, not the cause.




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