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October 4, 2023

Pressley, Ramirez, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Protect Tenants’ Right to Organize

Bill Summary (PDF) | Bill Text (PDF)

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congresswoman Delia C. Ramirez (IL-03), alongside Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), and Greg Casar (TX-35), introduced the Tenants’ Right to Organize Act, legislation to protect the power of tenants with federal vouchers to organize.

“As the daughter of a tenants’ rights organizer, I learned firsthand how essential it is that tenants be able to advocate for a safe and healthy place to call home,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “Our bill would protect and expand this right and enable tenants to hold landlords accountable and demand better living conditions. I’m proud to partner with my colleagues on a bill to affirm safe and stable housing as the human right that it is.”

“Throughout our nation, from big cities like Chicago to smaller cities, tenants have recognized the power they wield when they come together. Tenant organizing is not only winning battles against unfair housing practices, unjustified evictions, housing discrimination, and uncontrolled price hikes; it is also changing housing public policy. Community organizing power protects the right to safe, stable housing for thousands of families,” said Congresswoman Delia Ramirez. “The fight for safe, stable, equitable housing must always include tenants. As we are encountering a worsening housing affordability and access crisis, we understand that now, more than ever, all tenants must have the right to organize. I am honored to lead my friends and colleagues, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, and Rep. Greg Casar, in the introduction of the Tenants’ Right to Organize Act, a historic measure to protect and expand the community power changing the landscape of housing for everyone.”

As tenant unions across the nation are changing the reality of the current housing landscape, theTenants’ Right to Organize Actaims to amplify their efforts by:

  • Protecting the organizing rights of tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and tenants living in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties.
  • Expanding protections to mixed-status families and those who may not be eligible for tenant-based rental assistance.

Currently, only public housing tenants have a legally recognized right to organize. By extending this right to HVC and LIHTC tenants, the bill acknowledges that all tenants deserve decent, safe, stable, and sanitary housing. 

“Housing is a human right, and everyone deserves shelter that is safe, affordable, and properly maintained. Tenant organizations allow residents to protect their rights, hold their landlords accountable, and ensure that their basic needs are met. That’s why I’m proud to join Representatives Ramirez and Pressley in reintroducing this bill to ensure that Housing Choice Voucher and LIHTC tenants can organize without fear of retaliation or harassment. All renters, including those in federally assisted properties, deserve the right to organize and truly have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

“I founded the first-ever Renters Caucus this year because every person deserves a safe and affordable place to live. This bill supports our mission by empowering tenants in federally assisted properties to be able to organize and defend their rights without fear of retaliation. I’m proud to join Representatives Ramirez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Casar on this effort to protect our nation’s renters,” said Congressman Jimmy Gomez. 

“Across our country, renters deserve the right to work together to ask for lower rent and fees,” said Congressman Greg Casar. “People shouldn’t have the police called on them, or be worried that their lease is going to be canceled, just because they’re coming together to collectively ask for improvements to their housing or lower rents. As an Austin City Council member, the final policy that I passed was to establish a right to organize for all tenants. Now, it’s time to begin extending that right nationwide.”

The bill has the endorsement of local and national organizations, like Housing is a Human Right, National Housing Law Project, National Low-Income Housing Coalition,People’s Action Home Guarantee Campaign, Leaders and Organizers for Tenant Empowerment (LOFTE) Network, Lugenia Burns Hope Center, Shriver Center on Law and Poverty, Housing Action Illinois, Metropolitan Tenants Organization, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, Tenants Union of Washington State, Coalition for Economic Survival (CES)-Los Angeles, Arkansas Community Organizations, Greater Syracuse Tenants Network, Long Beach Residents Empowered (LIBRE), Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Housing Justice League of Atlanta, HOMELine of Minnesota, and the AFSC Atlanta Economic Justice Program. 

“We are excited that Representative Ramirez is standing with tenant organizers to ensure they have the funding they need. Times are tough, and tenants must have the support they need. Housing is a Human Right found during their coalition lobby days last spring that Congress members are ready to support Rep. Ramirez’s new bill”, said Susie Shannon, Policy Director for Housing is a Human Right. 

“The undeniable imbalance of power between renters and landlords puts renters at greater risk of harassment, unjust eviction, and in worst cases, homelessness,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of NLIHC. “Correcting this imbalance is crucial to building just, equitable communities where everyone can thrive. I applaud Representative Ramirez for introducing the Tenants’ Right to Organize Act to ensure all renters in federally assisted homes have the right to make their voices heard through collective action, without fear of retaliation.”

“Everyone has a right to safe and stable housing. Tenant organizations are essential to protecting this right. The Tenants’ Right to Organize bill helps to ensure tenants can safely and meaningfully organize,” Eric Sirota, Director of Housing Justice for Shriver Center on Law and Property.

“It is critical to extend an enforceable Right to Organize to federally assisted buildings where tenants do not now have this protection. Vulnerable tenants all too often are intimidated or bullied when they assert their rights. We commend Rep. Ramirez for taking the leadership to provide tenants with these vital protections,” said Michael Kane, Chair, Leaders and Organizers for Tenant Empowerment (LOFTE) Network and Director, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants

“This legislation is decades overdue. This Bill protects America’s investment in housing by protecting the rights of those living in affordable housing. This is how we ensure that federally sponsored housing is quality affordable housing,” said Roderick Wilson, Executive Director of Lugenia Burn Hope Center.

“This bill is long needed and will provide Housing Choice Voucher holders with an invaluable tool to improve their housing. The bill will prevent bad landlords from bullying and threatening to evict renters because they want to join a tenants union,” said John Bartlett, Executive Director of Metropolitan Tenants Organization. 

“Tenants working together to ensure that they have good quality housing that remains affordable is a key component of solving our nation’s housing problems,” said Bob Palmer, Policy Director for Housing Action Illinois.

A summary of the bill can be found here and the bill text can be found here.

In June 2021, Rep. Pressley led her colleagues in introducing the Tenant Empowerment Act, bold legislation to strengthen HUD tenant protections and provide them with the tools necessary to improve the quality of their homes.

As a Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance of the House Financial Services Committee (FSC), Rep. Pressley has consistently advocated for policies that affirm housing as a human right and center the dignity and humanity of all people.

  • In July 2023, Rep. Pressley, along with Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), reintroduced the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act, critical legislation to provide much-needed assistance to those facing eviction amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • In September 2021, Rep. Pressley joined Rep. Bush and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in introducing the Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021 to enact an urgently needed nationwide eviction moratorium. 
  • On July 2021, ahead of the expiration of the previous CDC eviction moratorium, Reps. Pressley, Bush, Gomez and their progressive colleagues sent a letter renewing their calls for President Biden and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to extend the federal eviction moratorium and prevent the historic and deadly wave of evictions that would occur if the government failed to do so. 
  • On July 30, 2021, Rep. Pressley joined House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) in introducing the Protecting Renters from Evictions Act of 2021, legislation to extend the eviction moratorium through the end of the year. 
  • In June 2021, Rep. Pressley, along with Reps. Gomez and Bush, led over 40 of their colleagues on a letter urging President Biden and CDC Director Walensky to extend and strengthen the moratorium for the duration of the public health crisis. 
  • In June 2021, Congresswoman Pressley, along with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), re-introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • On May 18, 2021, Reps. Bush and Pressley sent a letter to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calling on the CDC to strengthen and extend the federal moratorium on evictions, ensuring families can remain safely in their homes for the duration of the COVID-19 global health emergency.
  • On July 28, 2020, Rep. Pressley, Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Harris introduced the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act to provide much-needed, layered assistance to those facing eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On July 24, 2020, in a Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep. Pressley discussed the unprecedented financial cliff facing millions of renters and homeowners, the economic consequences of millions losing their homes, including the ability to return to work, and why funding for legal representation is so critical.
  • On May 11, 2020, Reps. Tlaib, and Joe Neguse (D-CO) urge House and Senate leadership to include $11.5 billion in funding for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) in the next relief package to aid the nation’s homeless population who are experiencing heightened vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On April 10, 2020, Rep. Pressley urged Congressional leadership to prioritize recurring monthly cash payments to those most at-risk during the COVID-19 crisis. This funding would allow people to cover all their bills, including rent.
  • On April 17, 2020, Reps. Pressley, Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and colleagues introduce the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • On March 23, 2020, Reps. Pressley and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) introduced the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act of 2020, legislation to provide critical funding to states and local governments responding to the needs of families and individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis. This legislation was included and passed through the HEROES Act and H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020.
  • On March 19, 2020, Rep. Pressley, along with progressive lawmakers and organizations, introduced the Housing is a Human Right Act to authorize more than $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years for crucial housing infrastructure and reduce homelessness.
  • On March 18, 2020, Reps. Pressley, Katie Porter (D-CA) and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) wrote to HUD calling for a moratorium on evicting renters during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In July 2019, Rep. Pressley announced legislation that would prohibit the use of biometric recognition technology in most public and assisted housing units funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), protecting tenants from biased surveillance technology. 
  • In November 2019, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Tlaib wrote to HUD blasting the agency for ignoring low-income tenants seeking to save their homes.