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June 28, 2024

Pressley, Waters, Tlaib Introduce Sweeping Bill to Strengthen Tenants Rights and Protections

Bill Helps Tenants Hold HUD and Housing Providers Accountable, Improve Quality of Homes

Pressley Unveiled the Bill in a Speech on the House Floor

Bill Text (PDF) | Bill Summary (PDF) | Floor Speech (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, along with House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (CA-43) and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), re-introduced the Tenant Empowerment Act, bold legislation to strengthen HUD tenant protections and provide renters with the tools necessary to improve the quality of their homes.

Congresswoman Pressley formally unveiled the bill today in a speech on the House floor. Full video of her remarks is available here.

“Housing is a social determinant of health and that has everything to do with the quality and safety of the home you live in – but far too many people in America are forced to live in unsafe conditions with no recourse,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Our bill would empower tenants by protecting their right to organize, giving them new tools to hold HUD and housing providers accountable for poor housing conditions, and ensuring everyone in America has a safe and healthy place to call home. As the daughter of a tenants’ rights organizer, I’m proud to partner with Rep. Tlaib, Ranking Member Waters, and our advocates to put forward this critical bill.”

“In cities across the country, far too many low-income families – particularly families of color – live in HUD-assisted housing that suffers from chronic disinvestment and substandard conditions such as no running water, heat, or air conditioning. These unhealthy conditions put residents at greater risk of long-lasting health consequences,” said Ranking Member Maxine Waters. “Tenant voices are critical in advocating for improved living conditions in HUD housing. That’s why I am proud to partner with my colleagues to reintroduce the Tenant Empowerment Act, which will give HUD tenants the tools they need to have a say in their communities and advocate for the safe, quality housing conditions that HUD is responsible for providing.”

“Everyone deserves to live with human dignity in a healthy and stable home, but far too often our most vulnerable residents, particularly our Black and brown neighbors, are forced to live in unsafe housing, without access to basic utilities like clean water and reliable heat,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. “The Tenant Empowerment Act is a crucial step towards empowering tenants—giving them the agency to hold HUD and housing providers accountable. I am proud to partner with Congresswoman Pressley to introduce this transformative legislation to improve their living conditions.”

For far too many residents living in HUD-assisted rental housing programs, housing has come at the cost of their health. Too many residents face ongoing issues with the physical conditions of their homes due to chronic underfunding, insufficient HUD oversight and enforcement, and lack of compliance with HUD requirements by some property owners. Across the country, some tenants have been forced to live in substandard conditions, lacking sufficient hot water, reliable heat, or a roof that keeps out rain and snow. Tenants of color, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by health-related hazards in these homes such as mold, allergens, lead, and poor air quality.

The Tenant Empowerment Act wouldempower tenants with the tools they need to hold HUD and providers accountable for poor housing conditions and improve the quality of their homes by:

  • Enabling tenants living in project-based voucher housing to hold their rent contribution in escrow if HUD determines a unit is in serious violation of safe housing standards with the option of a negotiated rent release if the project owner reaches measurable repairs benchmarks;
  • Provide tenants with the right to judicial enforcement of project owner agreements with HUD to ensure they address serious violations of housing standards or repeated violations of other program requirements, including the rights of residents to organize;
  • Fund tenant participation services, such as outreach and training of tenants and technical assistance;
  • Extend right to organize protections to tenants in project-based voucher buildings;
  • Establish a national repair and deduct policy for housing choice voucher holders.

The Tenant Empowerment Act is endorsed by the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Housing Law Project, Boston Tenant Coalition, Southwest Boston CDC, Georgetowne Tenants United, Keep Codman Affordable, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp, RESULTS, New York State Tenants & Neighbors, Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard, Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance, HHERO (Harwell Homes Empowered Residents Organization), The Brownstones Alliance Inc., NYC HDFC (New York Council of Housing Development Fund Companies), A. Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance, Planning Office for Urban Affairs, Greater Syracuse Tenants Network, Planning Office for Urban Affairs, George Wiley Center, Our Ancestors Church & Coven, ACE (Alternatives for Community and Environment), Granite State Organizing Project, Tenants Union of Washington State, Vision for Families, Tenants Association Riverside Townhomes, Alaska House Residents Association, St. Botolph Tenants Union, Oregon Renters in Action, NYS Tenants & Neighbors, Ida Apartments, Coalition for Economic Survival – Los Angeles, North Little Rock Resident’s Council, News and InformaHuman Servicetion TV Program, CCTV Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mechanicsville Senior Tenant Association, Mass. Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), Metropolitan Tenants Organization, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, 2 and 4 River Road Tenants Association, Material Aid and Advocacy Program, Community Action Agency of Somerville, Inc., The Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, The House of Imani Foundation Inc., Faces of HUD Housing (Unity Project), Helping Others Make Everything Right (HOMER), ROC.

“Tenants are their own best advocates, and their voices are essential in any effort to preserve safe, affordable, and accessible housing. Representative Pressley’s Tenant Empowerment Act centers tenants in the work to improve conditions in HUD-assisted properties and increase enforcement of HUD standards across all federally-assisted housing,” said Shamus Roller, Executive Director, National Housing Law Project.

“The National Alliance of HUD Tenants will continue partnering with Congresswomen Pressley, Tlaib, and Waters as this bill is being reintroduced to remind Congress that their constituents are depending on them to move this bill quickly,” said Geraldine Collins, Executive Director, National Alliance of HUD Tenants. “Tenants/Residents can no longer wait. The Tenant Empowerment Bill must become a priority because the landlords/management has the upper hand when dealing with the lives of families that are still living in deplorable conditions constantly being evicted daily and now becoming part of the ever growing homelessness and displacement from communities for our children. Let’s work together for the goodness of all, this is the right thing to do. Thank you.”

“The Tenant Empowerment Act builds on the successful advocacy of low-income residents by providing them with tools to hold landlords accountable when they fail to keep residents safely housed,” stated Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO in endorsement of the bold legislation. “Congress should quickly enact this bill – along with robust investments in proven solutions – to ensure that safe, decent, and affordable housing is universally available to every renter in need.”

The lawmakers first introduced the Tenant Empowerment Act in 2021.

Text of the bill is available here and bill summary is available here.

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 June 2023, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Tlaib introduced the Housing for Formerly Incarcerated Reentry and Stable Tenancy (Housing FIRST) Act, bold legislation to help people who are formerly incarcerated and those with criminal histories access safe and stable housing.
  • 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.