HOME Act would ban raising rent or home prices to “unreasonable levels” during a…
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HOME Act would ban raising rent or home prices to “unreasonable levels” during a presidentially-declared housing emergency
Former New York City gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan was right: “The rent is too damn high.”
Housing prices have really been skyrocketing recently.
The national median home sale price in Q2 of 2022 was $440,300, up +15.0% over the prior year. That’s considerably higher than the +9% Inflation rate during that same period.
Same story with rent. The national median rent in June for the 50 largest metropolitan areas was $1,876, up +14.1% over the prior year.
What the bill does
The HOME (Housing Oversight and Mitigating Exploitation) Act would ban the raising of home or rent prices to a level that’s “unconscionably excessive” during a presidentially-declared housing emergency.
That “unconscionably excessive” determination isn’t quantified in the bill, but would be both determined and enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development at the federal level, or by a state attorney general at the state level.
The president’s housing emergency could only last 30 days at a time, but could be renewed a potentially unlimited number of times. It could be declared for the entire nation or just for specific geographic areas, like certain states or cities.
The bill was introduced in the House on July 13 as H.R. 8360, by Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV4).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that, just as 37 states have laws banning price gouging during an emergency, the federal government should do the same during a housing emergency — which they believe the country is in right now.
“In the 4th Congressional District in Nevada, we saw 17% of the homes purchased last year being bought by private investors,” Rep. Horsford said in a press release. (GovTrack Insider was unable to confirm that statistic, but it may if anything be an undercount: nationally the number was 24%, and in Nevada statewide it was 30%.) “Companies with no interest or connection to these communities are then raising rents to levels to price out the hard-working families that have lived in these areas for generations.”
“This is a national trend that the data shows is targeting communities of color and hurting single mothers at greater numbers,” Rep. Horsford continued. The legislation “will empower the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary to… take action to keep families in their homes.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that rather than using heavy-handed government measures, home and rent prices can stabilize through a more free-market approach if done correctly, such as increasing the supply of housing stock.
“So why no affordable-housing crisis in Japan?” asked a Wall Street Journal article. “A big factor, experts say, is the country’s relatively deregulated housing policies, which have allowed housing supply to keep up with demand in the 21st century.”
The article cited statistics that during the 2010s, Japan averaged about 1 million new homes built per year, for a population around 125 million people. By comparison, during that same period, the U.S. only built around 1.25 million new homes per year — barely more than Japan — despite the U.S. having more than double Japan’s population.
The article also cited numbers that Japan’s housing prices had remained at the same level for about a decade — while in the capital and largest city of Tokyo, they’d remained level going back even further, since about 2000.
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted 14 cosponsors, all Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Financial Services Committee.
Even if it became law, though, it would require the president to declare such an emergency — a designation which is traditionally reserved for major natural disasters, pandemics, or national security crises, such as hurricanes, Covid-19, or a terrorist attack.
This is a left-leaning bill, but President Joe Biden has declined to designate some other national emergencies that progressives have urged, such as one for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June.
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This article was written by GovTrack Insider staff writer Jesse Rifkin.
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