The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a housing system that is failing millions of low-income people and people of color. Millions of renters of color struggle to pay rent due to loss of income from the pandemic, or because their regular income can’t cover ever-increasing rent costs. Small property owners who control much of the lower rent buildings in cities may not be able to weather extended periods of reduced rental income. At the same time, a number of Wall Street firms have already created special acquisition funds to buy up buildings in financial distress. This crisis has created a new urgency for cities to protect their housing stock through equitable housing acquisition strategies. The potential of significant, new federal funding for affordable housing, along with a growing tenant movement for community ownership of land and housing, has created an unprecedented opportunity for an equitable recovery — but only if cities are ready with the local capacity, policies, and financial tools to move quickly to acquire buildings.
This report details strategies that cities can lead to creating equitable housing outcomes for residents by moving privately owned rental housing into tenant or nonprofit ownership to avoid speculation, promote community control, and create permanently affordable housing. It describes what an equitable housing acquisition strategy is, why cities should implement one now, and what are the local capacity, policy, and finance tools needed.