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Restoring Housing Amendment Limiting Rent Could Save Millions of Americans; 36% of Americans Rent

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Article originally published in The PuLSE Institute

By Robert Weiner, Arthur Ferridge and Henry Deng

As inflation continues nationwide, renters have been left with particularly sore wallets. It is time for Congress to act to rescue renters. The framework is already in place to do so in the shape of former New York Mayor Ed Koch's 1974 Housing amendment.

It turns out that Jimmy McMillan of the cutely but accurately titled "The Rent Is Too Damn High Party" may have been onto something when he ran for New York Mayor.

Housing was excluded from the recently signed "Inflation Reduction Act" because Senators Manchin and Sinema demanded a smaller bill. As good as the bill is for climate change, health care, and mandating corporate tax payments, it missed in housing. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said this week that housing could be included in another bill if the Senate gains two more Democrats "- a real possibility.

Inflation in America is at four-decade record levels, as gas, food, and medicine prices skyrocket nationwide. July's record inflation rate of 9.1% included gas prices to surpass $8 per gallon in parts of the country and $5 in most places, while prescription medicines have risen by as much as 20%. Nothing, however, has had more impact in cities from Detroit to D.C. to New York than the constantly rising cost of rent.

Rent prices have increased exponentially in recent months, jumping 14.09% since June 2021, according to Redfin.

Manhattan's average rent hit $5,000 per month in June. In Detroit, the constant increase in rent is pushing the city into another low-income housing crisis as more delayed and missed payments have occurred. While the rent prices have increased by 16.8% nationwide, the rent in metro Detroit has proliferated by 25.8%, pushing 19% of the local renters to apply for federal pandemic relief. The increase has made single parents like Tiffany DeMoss, a single mother of three kids, fall behind on payments and face eviction after three years of paying a stable rent.

In major cities, rents rising since 2019 have kept putting pressure on renters and efforts to end homelessness. A report shows that the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro's median rent has increased by 15.8% over the last three years, even though many landlords in L.A. are prohibited from raising the cost of housing.

The scope of renting is vast. 36% of the 123 million households in America are renters and in Detroit, 52% of housing is inhabited by renters

The rent crisis is reminiscent of the 1973-75 recession which, in conjunction with an oil shortage and subsequent inflation, led to a stock market crash, recession, and inflated rent prices nationwide.

One solution came in the an amendment included and enacted in 1974's Housing and Community Development Act (HCDA), proposed by then-New York congressman and later Mayor Edward Koch.

The amendment mandated that large, low-income families living in Section 8 housing, in which the government provides renters with vouchers to rent privately owned properties, could be charged no more than 15%-25% of their income for rent. In fact, the amendment could be a model for all federally assisted housing for low income Americans. not just section 8, and for private apartment and low income housing to use as a model.

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