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Tenant rights get new attention in pandemic as groups focus on creating national bill of rights

San Francisco Rent
Posted at 9:55 AM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 11:55:44-04

The situation with evictions is bringing attention to tenant rights.

“The pandemic has only really laid bare the connections, I think, between housing and health, housing and racial justice, housing, and gender justice,” said Syma Mirza, Co-Director at HouseUS Fund.

The HouseUS Fund started before the pandemic.

“Thinking about housing justice, rather than just building more affordable housing, I like to say that this fund is about not about building houses, it's about building power and we're hoping to support tenants in their fight to build power,” said Mirza.

The pandemic has accelerated their efforts to support groups around the country, like the Homes Guarantee campaign, which is working on a “national tenant bill of rights.”

“Part of the reason we need a national set of tenant protections is to solve for that patchwork that exists at the state and local level. That means that a tenant in Kansas City or a tenant in Lexington, Kentucky, is a lot worse off than a tenant in New York City or in Los Angeles,” said Tara Raghuveer, Director of the Homes Guarantee campaign.

The campaign is in the process of talking to more than 1 million tenants about the protections they need.

“We need to sort of make sure that there is a slate of tenant protections that are unalienable and protected for every tenant across the country, especially as more and more people are remaining tenants for much longer,” said Raghuveer.

The trends they are hearing so far include the need for a ban on source of income discrimination. This comes up when someone may have an issue using a voucher for their rent. There is a ban on this discrimination in some but not all states.

Tenants are also calling for a standard set of practices around evictions set at the federal level, and rent controls set at the federal level as well.