Housing supply

Strengthening public services, increasing housing supply and building trust will improve tenant and landlord stability, says ULI report

A wide range of stakeholders representing tenant households and landlords agree that proactive efforts are needed to protect tenant safety and enable landlords/managers to sustainably manage and operate their properties, according to a new ULI report.

Stable Residents, Stable Properties concludes that finding common ground among rental market stakeholders is critical to creating strong housing policy as the United States struggles to improve resident stability amid an ongoing housing shortage in the US national scale and the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing financial insecurity faced by many low-income tenants and essential workers,” says Michael A. Spotts, report author and visiting senior fellow at ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing. “This is impacting property owners/managers, who face higher costs and labor shortages. To address these challenges, federal, state and local governments should adopt a range of perspectives to craft policy that builds short- and long-term stability for renters and landlords and addresses the critical shortage of decent and accessible rental housing.

The report was based on a framework that emphasized good faith communication among diverse stakeholders, a nuanced understanding of the challenges facing different communities, and the need to address both immediate concerns and systemic barriers to long term. The research included a literature and data review, 30 interviews, and 280 survey responses from tenants, tenant advocates, government officials, housing affordability researchers, landlords, and developers.

The critical points of the general consensus include:

  • Strengthen public services: Programs that provide emergency assistance and longer-term support are needed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable tenant households.
  • Improving the quality of housing: Addressing livability and quality of housing is an urgent concern.
  • Increase the supply of housing: In the long term, stability requires addressing the housing shortage.
  • Build trust: Improve communication between owners or managers and residents.
  • Ensure good governance: As public assistance and programmatic support increases, effective administration becomes more important.
  • Focus your efforts: The stability of residents requires special attention and a considerable financial commitment.

Although stakeholders had varying views on the details of the policy, a ‘do nothing’ approach was strongly discouraged across the board. The report provides several key takeaways that could inform future policy development:

  • Ensuring vulnerable tenants can meet their rent obligations can protect residents, landlords and property managers today – and safeguard housing quality and access in the future.
  • Reforming inefficient or bureaucratic program regulations and processes can encourage participation and reduce costs for the housing industry and tenants.
  • Price controls are the most contested intervention, but recent “anti-gouging” approaches represent an opportunity for compromise in some markets.
  • A well-thought-out combination of “carrots” and “sticks” can improve the quality of housing and the living conditions of tenants.
  • Upstream interventions are necessary to prevent eviction actions.
  • Rebalancing the eviction policy can improve stability.
  • As COVID-19 becomes rampant, going beyond eviction moratoriums will be essential for property management.
  • Reforms are needed to improve the ability of tenants to exercise their rights.
  • Expanding knowledge of rights and responsibilities requires proactive engagement.
  • Policy complementarity can help resolve contentious issues, such as pairing extensive tenant protections with supply-side zoning reform.

“The specific actions that improve resident stability are likely to vary from community to community and will evolve depending on the market and political context, Spotts says. “By providing a framework for action, we hope policymakers will approach this issue holistically to address both acute and chronic issues that contribute to instability.”

Full Stable Residents, Stable Properties the report is available at ULI Knowledge Search Tool Platform.