The apartment industry touches on nearly every facet of the economy and there are many issues that impact rental property owners, managers, and residents. The AAA works with the TAA and NAA to ensure that public policy does not impede but rather enhances the ability of apartment owners and operators to run their business and provide housing to the majority of our community.
AAA Areas of Focus
The Austin Apartment Association's advocacy work centers around operations and development related items impacting the rental housing and multi-family industry. This includes policy areas such as:
- Codes and Standards
- Land Use and Development
- Fair Housing
- Landlord and Tenant Laws
- Recycling Mandates
- Impact Fees
- ...and much more
A sampling of policy fact sheets is below. For a complete listing of all National Apartment Association policy items, visit the NAA page:
Austin Code - Repeat Offender Program
The unique nature of the rental housing industry puts apartment operators and employees on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in communities across the nation. Apartment owners and operators are dealing with impacts in their communities, working to address employee and resident concerns and doing all they can to stop the spread of the virus.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event with policymakers at all levels of government moving quickly to address emerging challenges.
Conversations about renter protection mandates should account for the impact on rental housing providers and apartment communities at-large. Similar to their residents, owners and operators may experience financial hardships that affect their ability to pay mortgage payments, employee payroll and benefits, insurance premiums and tax obligations. In the case of evictions, rental housing providers must maintain the right to evict residents in cases involving “harm to person or property,” namely matters that put the safety and security of employees and other residents at risk.
When most people think about consumer data breaches, they often conjure images of banks, credit reporting agencies, and retailers. However, the apartment industry is just as vulnerable. Apartment firms increasingly operate across multiple states and must comply with a patchwork of 48 different state laws governing data security and privacy. This regulatory framework drives up costs, which ultimately affect housing affordability.
Because rental housing owners and operators are responsible for safeguarding vast amounts of highly sensitive, personal data collected, used, and maintained about applicants, residents, and employees any data breach can impact all of these individuals and create severe reputational, financial and legal costs for the apartment. Creating a secure, cost-effective method to ensure personal data safety will protect the resident, limit the liability of apartment owners and operators and help uphold an excellent business reputation.
The apartment industry stands ready to work with Congress to create a federal data standard that recognizes the
unique nature and needs of the rental housing industry while ensuring the data that our members collect, use, and maintain is secure.
Just as evictions are unfortunately a necessary part of doing business, eviction screening is an essential function that helps owners and operators mitigate risk and ensure the safety and security of residents and community staff. Limitations on the ability to review pending or previous filings would be a significant detriment to the owners’ review process.
Apartment owners and operators require full access to a complete and accurate eviction history of an applicant without limitation on evaluating previous court records. The full and accurate record gives owners and operators the most comprehensive picture of the applicant to determine his or her ability to pay rent.
Legislation and local ordinances placing limitations on the ability to review an applicant’s eviction court records would be a significant detriment to housing providers as they utilize these records to assess applicants’ capacity to pay rent or fulfill other responsibilities under a lease. Owners and operators provide safe, professionally maintained housing of good quality to community residents. In exchange, providers depend on responsible renters to run their business. They must fulfill their own financial obligations, including, but not limited to, maintenance, capital improvements, mortgage payments, utilities, insurance premiums, payroll and property taxes.
Such limitations on screening would also have unintended consequences that would adversely impact low-income residents, such as greater reliance on financial records and credit scores.
Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as the Fair Housing Act or the Act) prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status (which protects families with children under the age of 18, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18). As part of its protections for disabled persons, the Act also requires all "covered multifamily dwellings" designed and constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, to be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. The above are the 7 "protected classes" under federal law. State and local fair housing laws, such as the City of Austin, often go beyond the scope of the federal law to include additional protected traits such as sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition to federal, state, and local fair housing laws, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) regulations and guidance require an additional layer of compliance for rental housing providers.
In terms of fair housing, discrimination could mean treating some individuals less favorably than others because of their race (unequal treatment), implementing a policy that while neutral on its face, has a disproportionate, negative impact on families with children (disparate impact), denial of a request for an emotional support animal (reasonable accommodation) or being out of compliance with the Act's seven accessibility requirements for disabled persons (design and construction violations). With a few limited exceptions, fair housing applies to all publicly-owned and privately-owned housing and allows either an actual aggrieved party or a tester to file a fair housing complaint against an owner for discrimination. Similar to a secret shopper, a tester works with a local nonprofit (often funded by HUD) to enforce compliance with the law.
Failure to comply with fair housing requirements may result in a discrimination complaint or lawsuit as well as fines, damages, and attorney fees. All rental property owners and operators must thoroughly educate themselves and their staffs on the applicable fair housing laws in the markets in which they operate.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is a public/private partnership that leverages federal dollars with private investment to produce affordable rental housing and stimulate new economic development in many communities. Under the program, state housing agencies issue credit allocations to developers who then sell the credits to investors. Investors receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their federal tax liability over a 10-year period, and developers invest the equity raised to build or acquire apartments. This equity allows apartment firms to operate the properties at below-market rents for qualifying families. LIHTC financed properties must be kept affordable for at least 30 years.
A stronger LIHTC program enables developers of affordable housing to more quickly and effectively respond to the nation's housing needs. Specifically, establishing a minimum 4 percent tax credit rate for acquiring and rehabilitating apartment communities allows investors to derive the full value of the credit and developers to access greater financing resources.
Section 8 Program
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program has long served as America's primary method of rental assistance. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by local public housing authorities, the program provides subsidized rents for qualifying low-income families in private rental housing, including apartments. This public-private partnership has the potential to be one of the most effective means of addressing our nation's affordable housing needs and supporting mixed-income communities. However, the program's potential success is limited by too many inefficient and duplicative requirements, which discourage private providers from accepting vouchers.
Many private owner-operators may want to participate in the Section 8 Program but a number of its requirements act as disincentives such as a mandatory HUD tenancy addendum that supersedes the owner's lease, resident eligibility certification and related regulatory paperwork. Collectively, these requirements often make it more expensive for a private owner to rent to a Section 8 voucher holder.
The AAA is proud to work with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) to help remove many regulatory barriers and challenges associated with the program, and we encourage all rental property owners to fully explore the prospect of working with HACA and begin accepting Section 8 Vouchers.