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Update on BCLP’s trip to D.C.

Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2023 at 8:00 am


Representatives on Nov. 12 from BCLP who went to Washington, D.C., prior to leaving. From left, Shelly Bidini, Tristan Call, and JoAnne Vasil. Ashley Benkarski and Judy Schwartz-Naber also attended the trip.

Back in November, representatives with the Bedford County Listening wen to D.C. to petition for better federal renter protections.

This event followed the Shelbyville City Council’s unanimous voted to support federal renter protections for tenants living in complexes which landlords acquired using federal financing (i.e. FannieMae and FreddieMac).

JoAnne Vasil, who attended the trip, said, “I think it was really good. For us and what we went there for, we were able to accomplish what was our intended purpose. We were there to support Homes Guarantee and fight for renter protections on federally-backed loans and we took part in a lot of great actions.”

They also took the resolution which was signed by the Shelbyville City Council in September and presented it to a representative of the FHFA during a power meeting.

The protections in the resolution included rent control (to stop local complexes like Admiral Place or Park Trail from doubling the rent, according to the resolution); banning retaliation when residents complain, request repairs, and organize; requiring landlords do repairs; requiring a landlord registry so everyone knows the name and phone number of the owner.

“It was really inspiring because there were people there and organizations there from all across the country who are fighting towards same thing. We all have the shared goal of trying to get those federal renter protections,” said Vasil.

They also did a congressional briefing and then a press conference with Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA 7th District).

“It was a whirlwind four days but it was really good,” said Vasil.

The Bedford County Listening Project, who went along with Tennessee for Safer Homes, were the only organization from Tennessee.

But Tennessee is not the only state facing issues between renters-landlords.

“Rent is too high everywhere, so we’re certainly not alone with the rent being too high. That is something that is affecting every single tenant across the country, whether you live in a federal-backed property or not,” said Vasil. “The fact we don’t have federal rent regulations that put a cap on how much a landlord can raise rent is affecting everybody.”

Some 12 million rental units in the US whose landlords have federally-backed loans.

This is in addition to poorly maintained units.

Before they make their next steps for the Homes Guarantee Campaign, Vasil said they are waiting for the federal housing finance agency to come back with their initial policy, which they hope will be out before the end of the year.

“We’ve obviously asked for quite a few demands and we don’t know what they’re going to include what they’re not going to include.”

But they’re definitely hopeful most of the demands will be met.

“Based on the power meeting we had with the FHFA staffer, it seems like we might get some of what we’ve asked for,” said Vasil. “I’m hopeful there will be a framework there we can work with.”

“The takeaway for me was just how amazing it is to be in a space with so many people because it can feel very insular when you’re working toward something locally.”