- More than 100 protestors gathered at the National Multifamily Housing Council’s annual fall conference.
- They demanded that lawmakers “stop opposing tenant protections at the behest of real estate groups and developers.”
- Protestors told Insider they are just getting started.
You may have heard: The share of Americans who can not afford rent has spiked in 2022.
America’s renters are fed up.
On Tuesday, more than 100 tenant activists ambushed a national gathering of corporate landlords to demand that “lawmakers stop opposing tenant protections at the behest of real estate groups and developers.”
Waving red signs, activists from four organizations — Renters Rising, the Center for Popular Democracy, PowerSwitch Action, and the Action Center for Race and the Economy — met at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Wharf to disrupt the National Multifamily Housing Council’s annual fall conference.
NMHC did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Chanting “down with corrupt greed” and “no more rent increases” activists stormed the hotel’s halls, interrupting conference sessions to air their grievances with the nation’s top multifamily developers.
Among the protestors was Christina Morales who, with the help of a dozen other activists, took over a stage during a conference session to share her very own rental testimonial.
Facing boos and jeers from conference attendants, Morales described how difficult it was to afford rent when her husband passed away in 2019 and she later became ill with the Covid-19 virus, which contributed to her being evicted from a home she shared with her son.
She asked conference goers to think about people like her.
“I believe corporate landlords need to focus on restructuring their costs and practices to help renters live in affordable housing with dignity and respect,” Morales said to a group of upset multifamily leaders. “That’s all we ask for.”
Morales testimony was followed by speeches from two more activists, who listed complaints about inadequate and unsafe housing, landlord deceit, as well as a general lack of affordable housing.
The group was later escorted out by the hotel’s security guards — but not without uproar.
“Housing is a human right,” the group shouted throughout the hotel. “Fight, fight, fight.”
Over the past few years, booming rental demand has led to rapid price increases that have plummeted affordability for many of the nation’s renters. Although rents are now tumbling in pockets of the country, inflation and interest rate hikes continue to weigh on wages, resulting in more and more Americans becoming increasingly rent-burdened. For renters earning the national median income of $67,521 a year and paying a US median rental price of at least $1,770, rent works out to about 31% of their pre-tax pay. This exceeds what financial experts recommend budgeting for housing.
“Corporate landlords are reaping record profits, which many of them say are driven by rents,” Sofia Lopez, the deputy campaign director for housing at ACRE, who attended Tuesday’s protest, told Insider. “This isn’t about inflation, this is about greed.”
Protesters call on lawmakers to pass national rent control
Lopez hopes that lawmakers who attended this year’s NMHC conference hear the cries of their constituents and move to enact and better enforce tenant protections like Just Cause Evictions — which limits the reasons for which landlords can evict tenants — and rent control, a measure that the organization says is a threat to the rental industry.
“We know that the National Multifamily Housing Council has had a huge hand to play in getting preemption passed across the country as they see rent control as one of the biggest threats to their industry,” she said. “The organization represents so many corporate landlords across the country and we know that this is the place they go to do their lobbying.”
Lopez hopes Tuesday’s protest will especially resonate with senators Kyrsten Sinema, a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, who attended this year’s conference as administration and congressional speakers.
“They are joining with these landlords and siding with them,” Lopez said. “Their constituents helped them get into office, so we can get them out and replace them with people who are more pro-tenant. The pressure to do this will only get greater as rents continue to increase.”
The senators who represent Arizona and Colorado have received a combined total of $45,000 in donations from NMHC’s PAC, according to data from the nonpartisan and nonprofit National Institute on Money in Politics, which shared its data on followthemoney.com. In the capital city of each of these states, rents have climbed by 13% and 4% year over year, respectively. The offices for Sinema and Bennet did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Landlords in Colorado are permitted to only increase rent once in a continuous 12-month period. However, there is no legislation that limits rent increases in Arizona.
Lopez says this has to change.
“Without rent control, whether it’s national, state or local, we’re prioritizing profits at the expense of renters,” she said. “Housing isn’t a discretionary expense – everyone needs a home and people deserve to know their rent won’t go up hundreds of dollars or more per month.”
“We are not going to stop until we win,” she said.