NLIHC Testifies before Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Impact of Uncompetitive Housing Market on Renters

NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights on October 24 at a hearing, “Examining Competition and Consumer Rights in Housing Markets.”

Diane appeared before the Subcommittee with four other witnesses: Vanessa Brown Calder, director of opportunity and family policy studies at the Cato Institute; Luis Quintero, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Cary Business School; EJ Antoni, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation; and Maurice Stucke, professor of law at the University of Tennessee College of Law.

“Renters face real challenges comparing and contrasting prices. More and more of the cost of renting are hidden from view, through the proliferation of junk fees, and as a result, renters struggle to take advantage of price competition because the true cost of housing is not transparent,” said Subcommittee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in her opening remarks. “We’ve seen the widespread use of algorithmic pricing tools to set prices, even at the expense of higher vacancy rates…Families are being boxed out of the market by institutional investors…and unlike ‘mom and pop’ landlords, these absentee owners are more likely to charge junk fees, evict families, and increase instability in our communities. This is all made worse by the fact we are not building enough affordable housing.”

“Millions of Americans all across the country – including so many in my own home state of Utah – are paying significantly higher prices to own, rent, or otherwise live in a home in 2023,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Lee (R-UT). “With rents at record highs, many renters have limited housing options available to them. If Americans are spending close to half of what they make on housing, it leaves families with less income, fewer resources, less savings to pay for essentials, such as groceries, gasoline, and cars – all of which have become dramatically more expensive at the exact same time.”

In her testimony, Diane explained how the lack of national renter protections leaves tenants – and particularly tenants with the lowest incomes – vulnerable to unjust treatment, housing instability, and evictions. “Landlords can engage in abusive and predatory behavior with few consequences,” she said. “Renters facing exorbitant rent increases or excessive fees have little to no ability to move to a new home. Instead, renters can face retaliation for reporting unsafe housing conditions or illegal actions by landlords, and because so few renters have access to legal representation, many are unable to assert their legal rights.”

Diane argued that strengthening and enforcing federal renter protections is one critical solution to the nation’s housing crisis, and she urged both Congress and the Biden administration to take immediate action to protect low-income and marginalized households from housing instability, eviction, and in the worst cases, homelessness. In addition to renter protections, Diane noted that long-term, sustained investments from the federal government – including to bridge the gap between income and rent, invest in new and preserve existing affordable housing stock, and create a permanent emergency rental assistance program – are needed to end the nation’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis.

Read Diane’s testimony here.

Watch a recording of the hearing here.