The White House announced a plan Wednesday to coordinate with rental housing platforms and local lawmakers to counter “junk fees” often hidden from consumers who rent property — in what one critic called an attempt to counter record-high rent prices seen during the Biden administration.
The announcement includes a promise from Zillow, Apartments.com, and AffordableHousing.com to provide upfront cost information on rental properties that includes fees for services such as applications, online payments, mail sorting and trash. The administration has worked with state lawmakers to pass laws that require landlords to include these sorts of fees in their online listing instead of putting them into a contract at the last minute.
The median price of rent has hiked roughly 25% under the Biden administration, from $1641 in January 2021 to $2029 in June 2023, according to rent.com.
Joel Griffith, a research fellow in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, said the announcement from the White House “masks the true drivers of this problem” of skyrocketing rent prices under President Biden’s lead.
“This push by the White House is all for show,” Griffith told Fox News Digital. “They want to acknowledge the problem of rent prices, but they are pointing fingers in the wrong direction and ignore that the problem is created by a growing intervention of the federal government.”
Griffith said that even if private companies follow the lead of the White House to increase transparency on rent fees, they are likely to increase rent prices as a whole to compensate for any losses.
The Biden administration has touted several actions taken over the past two years to counter these rising rent prices. This includes tens of billions of dollars in investments and tax credits for low-income housing, as well as national eviction prevention programs to reduce homelessness.
But Griffith says government intervention is the reason why rent prices continue to increase. Government subsidies, building regulations, and lenient eviction policies, he said, give private companies and landlords no choice but to charge what is necessary to maintain a profit.
“When I see the president try to focus on so-called junk fees, what I see here is an attempt to shift the blame to those who are responsible — state, local, and federal subsidies — and divert the blame to the private sector,” Griffith told Fox News Digital.