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National Rent Control? It’s Closer Than You Think.

This is one of the largest upticks in tenant organizing since the 1970s.

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A historic wave of tenant organizing is on the verge of winning renter protections that would be attached to federal loans—affecting 1 in 4 apartments. But Greystar, Blackstone, and AvalonBay are spending millions to block it.

They’re a part of a coalition of massive landlords, banks, and investors who are pooling resources to block rent control and renter protection policies.

The opposition

One of the biggest landlord industry lobbying groups is called the National Multifamily Housing Council. That group has spent almost $10 million lobbying against rent control.

One NMHC member, Blackstone, is the world’s largest private equity firm. By some accounts, it’s the largest landlord in the U.S. But its influence doesn’t stop there. In 2019, the UN accused Blackstone of worsening the global housing crisis by buying up properties and hiking rents across the world.

Meanwhile, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwartzman earned $1.3 billion last year.

For private equity firms like Blackstone, membership in lobbying groups like the NMHC is a way to protect their profits against threats like the current push for rent control.

Tenants fight back

Despite this opposition, the US is seeing one of the largest upticks in tenant organizing since the 1970s. Renters across the country face worsening housing crisis and they’re fighting back. Groups like KC Tenants are at the forefront of this movement, fighting to stop unfair rent hikes and corporate slumlords.

Another group, Peoples Action, is running a campaign called Homes Guaranteed that tells the government to protect tenants.

Corporate landlords like Landmark often receive lucrative loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These government sponsored enterprises purchase mortgages from banks and set terms for them.

25% of apartment units across the country financed in this way; the government is essentially in business with our landlords. But that may be just the leverage renters need.

Thanks to the work of tenant organizers, the Federal Housing Finance Authority is considering policy that would tie these loans to a set of tenant protections.

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