The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) continues to advocate on behalf of the industry around housing supply and affordability as well as regulatory and operational challenges.

“The good news is federal lawmakers finally understand that housing affordability and housing supply go together,” NMHC president Sharon Wilson Géno told the audience at the MFE Leadership Summit in Vail, Colorado, in early March. “We have worked very hard along with many of you and many of our partner real estate organizations to make the case that we need more federal investment and more opportunity through the tax code and other types of federal assistance to create more multifamily housing, which in turn will make housing more affordable.”

The White House set forth a framework of regulatory actions in response to feedback from resident advocacy groups that the relationship between housing providers and their customers is unfair. According to Wilson Géno, particularly post-COVID, in light of increased rents and other things, the federal government feels it should be taking action to make some changes in that relationship.

“As you all know as operators, 99% of that work happens at the state and local level, so there’s really a very limited role for the federal government to play here,” she said.

The industry veteran noted that the NMHC has been tracking 35 different actions over the last year, from Section 8 and the National Flood Insurance Program to fees and artificial intelligence algorithms.

“We’re in a situation of great political polarization. The margins in both the House and the Senate are so very thin that it’s virtually impossible for them to get any kind of real legislation passed. So in order to move the agenda forward, the administration has gone through and tried to make different policy changes through federal agency action. This is just a fraction of some of the things we’re tracking now that impact multifamily housing,” she noted. “I’m happy to say that none of those actions have come to fruition or haven’t been enacted yet, but there’s still the possibility of some of those moving forward.”

Wilson Géno said she expects housing to come up in the president’s State of the Union address Thursday.

“Before, if the president said the word house or housing, we got excited. We are expecting to get a section of the presentation around the area of fees; in particular, they are focused on policies that will create fairness around fees in a variety of industries. We will be part of that conversation. That will probably the biggest one that we’re going to be looking at moving forward—actions from the Federal Trade Commission and actions from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.”

She added that the White House leaked an announcement that indicated they are going to put out further guidance on existing law. “If that is in fact the case, that will be the best-case scenario for us because those are laws that good operators are already complying with. That is what we’re hoping for. We will see what happens as they put some more announcements out over the next week or so.”

To address these potential challenges, the NMHC is collaborating with other industry associations to be a united voice.

“It can’t just be owners, operators, developers, and other folks in the multifamily space advocating for what we think are the right policies,” she said. “We need to bring others to the table.”

The newly formed Housing Solutions Coalition includes the NMHC, National Apartment Association (NAA), Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Home Builders. This coalition is making an effort to push back on states and localities across the country on misinformation around rent control and rent regulation and to put forward solutions on the state and local level that make sense.

“There are a number of examples that make sense, like Florida’s Live Local Act, and in other places where we are seeing opportunities to build more housing and build more housing affordably because states and localities have taken action,” she said. “But unfortunately the spectrum of rent control remains something we’re spending a lot of time on. We’re tracking currently 26 different states and localities. This is important education and making sure people understand rent control hurts renters.”

The other coalitions include the NMHC and NAA-led Housing Affordability Coalition, which has over 20 real estate partners, and the Real Estate Industry Coalition, which includes over a dozen partners.

“When we speak with one voice, we have the opportunity to be heard,” she said.