On Monday, November 14, members of NLIHC’s Tenant Leader Cohort attended a meeting at the White House on tenant protections, alongside other people with lived expertise, legal aid advocates who have worked directly with impacted people, advocates, and researchers. Diane Yentel, NLIHC President and CEO, attended the White House meeting with the Tenant Leader Cohort.
NLIHC’s Tenant Leader Cohort is a group of tenant advocates and community leaders with lived experience of housing insecurity who work towards housing justice and racial equity in their neighborhoods and greater communities. NLIHC collaborates with the Tenant Leader Cohort to inform our policy priorities so that these priorities best reflect the needs of low-income renters. In October 2022, the cohort participated in NLIHC’s Tenant Leader Retreat in Albany, Georgia, where members focused on racial trauma and healing and helped formulate tenant protection policy priorities and ideas for NLIHC’s upcoming policy forum in 2023.
The goal of White House meeting was to inform the Biden-Harris administration’s policy development for tenant protections. NLIHC’s Tenant Leader Cohort shared five themes with the Biden-Harris administration during the White House meeting: (1) addressing past and current inequalities by incorporating racial and disability equity in all aspects of policymaking; (2) rebalancing the power between landlords and tenants and holding landlords and institutions accountable; (3) ensuring tenant representation by having tenants present for every decision made about housing; (4) prioritizing housing that is deeply affordable and accessible for people with the lowest incomes and greatest needs, especially through rental assistance, the national Housing Trust Fund, and public housing; and (5) increasing resources to help low-income people become homeowners and maintain homeownership and financial stability.
NLIHC’s tenant leaders were pleased to participate in the meeting. It was the first time that many of the leaders had visited the White House, and they looked forward to providing feedback on policies that impact their lives and communities. After returning from the meeting, the leaders expressed their eagerness to continue conversations about tenant protections with other professionals working on housing policy and to advance advocacy efforts focusing on disability justice, HUD’s Section 3 program, and the Faircloth amendment, which impacts the construction of new public housing units.
Several members of the cohort shared comments about their experiences:
“The R on my chest signified ‘Residents’ who like me have experienced harms, disparate treatment, and trauma as unhoused housing insecure disabled,” said NLIHC Board and Tenant Cohort Member Zella Knight. “These ills include source-of-income discrimination. Ambassador Rice recognized the importance of those having direct impact being part of the discussion and decisions in the efforts to protect tenants.”
“I was focusing on and had a positive conversation on opportunities to expand broadband for rural America,” said NLIHC Board and Tenant Cohort Member Loraine Brown. “To increase access to tenant and advocacy resources.”
“People closest to the problem are also closest to the solution,” said NLIHC Board and Tenant Cohort Member Mindy Woods. “It is past time for the White House to listen to those of us with lived experience.”
“The solution is having the tenants at the table when policies are being made,” said NLIHC Board and Tenant Cohort Member Geraldine Collins.
The cohort will be working with NLIHC staff to draft a letter to the Biden administration and other federal agencies with representatives who attended the convening (e.g., HUD, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and the U.S. Department of Justice). The letter will address important issues that were not covered during the meeting. NLIHC and the cohort will continue to push to make tenant protections an ongoing topic of discussion and to include the voices of individuals with lived experience in these discussions.