Professor Nestor Davidson provided his take to The Nation on a new bill called “A Place to Prosper Act” put forth by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) intended to provide a solution to the affordable housing crisis by protecting tenants, not big landlords.
Her legislation—called the “A Place to Prosper Act”, and one of a six-bill package to address economic inequality titled “A Just Society”—aims to keep tenants in place by establishing a national cap on annual rent increases, restricting evictions without just cause, and guaranteeing a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction.
In focusing on tenants’ rights, the legislation diverges from a congressional norm dating back to the Reagan era: prioritizing new construction and homeownership over renters’ rights. Recent congressional efforts to address the housing crisis have sought to build new units by expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which incentivizes private developers and investors to provide low-income housing, and break barriers to homeownership by lowering mortgage costs. But Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation intends to protect tenants in the homes where they already reside.
The bill aims to rein in predatory landlords by imposing disclosure requirements, which would force the nation’s largest landlords to publicize their eviction rates, median rents, code violations, and more. It would also prohibit mortgage sales to landlords with a history of harassing tenants. The measure—developed in partnership with the progressive advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) as part of its “A Home To Thrive” campaign—would additionally make it illegal for landlords to discriminate against people who receive federal housing assistance and dedicate $10 billion to lead abatement.
Protecting tenants and increasing supply have traditionally been viewed by economists as conflicting approaches. “The critique of any kind of protection has long been about the unintended consequences for low-income communities: If you make it more difficult to maintain and build housing, that is going to hurt the very communities that you’re trying to help,” summarized Nestor Davidson, a professor of real estate and land use at Fordham University’s Urban Law Center. “But I think there’s a growing recognition that it is not a zero-sum game. There are modern versions of tenant protection that strike a balance that will not undermine production—that will actually work hand in glove with ways of thinking about supply-side solutions. You have to have both.”