Tlaib introduces bill to ensure safe, clean housing for HUD tenants 

By: - June 29, 2021 2:44 pm

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib attends President Joe Biden’s remarks on his American Jobs Plan and the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck at the Ford Motor Co. Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, where the truck will be produced, on Tuesday, May 18. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), along with Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced legislation Tuesday strengthening U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) tenant protections, as well as providing renters with tools to improve the quality of their homes. 

Tlaib held a press conference on Tuesday alongside Pressley, housing advocates and tenants rights organizers to unveil the legislation, dubbed the Tenant Empowerment Act of 2021. The bill will enable residents to participate in certain portions of HUD’s physical inspection and management review process and provide them with the right to judicial enforcement to ensure the owners of HUD buildings address serious violations of housing standards or program requirements. 

Over 5 million households across the U.S. are on some type of HUD housing assistance. Black Americans are also more likely to depend on HUD housing assistance programs than those who are white, with 48% of Americans in HUD housing programs being white and 46% being Black. Those living in inadequate housing are also more likely to experience health problems.

Tlaib said the Tenant Empowerment Act grants tenants the right to live in safe and clean housing.

“Our nation’s public housing has long been a critical lifeline for the most vulnerable Americans, growing more vital amid an unprecedented pandemic, but the promise of a home is not yet realized for all HUD tenants,” Tlaib said. “We must ensure their right to a quality, safe and sanitary place to live — and a healthier life.”

Tlaib has been a strong advocate for housing rights throughout her time in Congress. In March 2020, Tlaib teamed up with Pressley to introduce the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act of 2020 that aimed to provide funding for homeless families and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure was passed as part of the HEROES Act and the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020. 

In May 2020, Tlaib also teamed up with Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) to urge House and Senate leadership to include $11.5 billion in funding in the next relief package for the homeless population. 

The introduction of the latest bill comes after the Biden administration announced last week that the national moratorium on evictions will be extended until July 31 as the administration tries to find alternative plans to help renters before a surge of evictions ensues once the moratorium is lifted. 

The extension will also give Michiganders more time to apply for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA), a federal rent aid program set up in March. Roughly 8,700 people have been approved for the program, so far, out of 39,000 applicants. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signed legislation last week distributing roughly $378.3 million of federal funding within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to be used for grant awards assisting renters who are at or below 80% of the area median income.

Another portion of the $378.3 million will be used to support the Emergency Rental Assistance Program that helps with rental and utility assistance payments, housing stability services and case management to eligible renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The rental assistance funding was a part of a larger $2.2 billion piece of legislation disbursing COVID-19 relief funds. 

Earlier this month, federal officials announced that Michigan will receive $13.1 million from HUD for emergency housing vouchers as part of the American Rescue Plan. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) received 779 vouchers totaling roughly $9.3 million, while the Detroit Housing Commission received roughly $1.2 million for 99 vouchers. 

In April, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge also announced that Michigan would receive over $150 million in federal grants for rental assistance, the creation of affordable housing and other homelessness initiatives as part of the American Rescue Plan.

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.