John Oliver slammed landlords on the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, accusing them of making housing in America something “that 16-year-old TikTok millionaires can afford, and you can’t.” The late night host dedicated most of his Sunday (June 19) show to unaffordable rents in America, where he said people are struggling to find housing or are being “priced out” of their current homes.
“You’ll often hear that high rents are a supply and demand issue. Basically: too many renters, not enough units. And that is partially true because there are currently not nearly enough affordable units in the U.S,” he said, before calling out new luxury developments “cropping up” in U.S. cities.
“Apartments are being built, but the problem is, thanks in part to local NIMBY opposition to more affordable multifamily housing, it’s mainly been at the high end … This serious lack of new affordable housing has enabled landlords to charge higher rents for the units that exist.”
Oliver explained, “if you are wondering why your rent is going up, it may well be because your landlord sees the current affordable housing crisis as a chance to reset market rates. In a lot of the country, there are very few legal constraints to stop them from doing that.”
The late night host focused specifically on low income renters, whom he said are “most vulnerable” to rent hikes, especially when Section 8 housing is “massively underfunded,” locking people out of rental assistance when they need it most.
Zeroing in on what he identified as “the core issue with rental housing in this country,” Oliver explained to his audience, “People who think that investments deserve more respect than basic human needs, and then set up a system designed to ensure that some people just spiral downwards.”
Oliver continued, “They can’t move somewhere cheaper if nowhere cheaper exists, they can’t apply for federal assistance if there’s nowhere near enough, they can’t even use that assistance if no one accepts it, and they can’t take their landlord to court if the court system is skewed against them, and they can’t depend on rental housing ever again if they’re evicted even just once. It’s a complete shit-show.”
For a solution to the massive issue, Oliver suggested a shift in mindset: “We need to agree housing is a human right.”
He added, “This can actually be policy. Many countries, including France, Scotland and South Africa, have legally codified a right to housing, and here in the U.S. three-quarters of Americans already believe that it is a human right.”
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sundays at 11/10c on HBO. Watch Oliver’s full housing segment in the video above.