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Federal Housing Plans from 2020 Democratic Nominees in the U.S.

Early in the race, several Democratic presidential candidates presented new and ambitious federal housing policies.

Seeking to connect with top-of-mind issues for millions of Americans, the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries surfaced numerous progressive housing policies that had never been considered at the federal level in the United States.

As the Berkeley Public Policy Journal’s Eli Kahn neatly outlines the mounting pressures for housing policy reform across America:

An epidemic of homelessness is highly visible in the U.S.’s wealthiest cities, putting grotesque inequality and a societal failure of compassion on full display. This crisis is the tip of the iceberg, as more and more families are cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on rent or mortgage payments. Housing is also directly connected with structural racism, as the legacy of redlining has kept Black family wealth at a fraction of that of white families. With public schools funded in large part through local property taxes, ongoing residential segregation is a major factor in educational inequality as well. In short, housing policy can be found beneath the surface of almost every major issue in the United States.

Nearly all of the front-running candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary introduced housing policy proposals, including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Corey Booker, and Pete Buttigieg. Reflecting on these proposals, we see some commonalities, a lot of inspiration from Europe, and some original thinking.

Here are some of the highlights from a few candidates:

Joe Biden's Housing Plan

  • Joe Biden’s “Plan for Investing in our Communities through Housing” calls for significant investment in production and addressing racial disparities in home ownership.

  • The plan calls for an investment of $640 billion over 10 years “so every American has access to housing that is affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy efficient and resilient, and located near good schools and with a reasonable commute to their jobs.” The key points of his plan include:

    • Introduces a set of principles for housing that work for both urban and rural communities: affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy efficient and resilient, located near good schools and with a reasonable commute.

    • Proposes a new Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights that’s modeled on the California Homeowner Bill of Rights. The bill outlines several ways to prevent predatory behavior from lenders and landlords.

    • His plan establishes a $100 billion Affordable Housing Fund to construct and upgrade affordable housing, including incentives to housing authorities, the Indian Housing Block Grant, expanding the HOME program, and increasing investment in the Housing Trust Fund.

    • Biden’s plan expands the Community Reinvestment Act to apply to non-bank lenders, which forces banks to be accountable for the public interest and ensure they are serving the needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

    • “Providing financial assistance to help hard-working Americans buy or rent safe, quality housing, including down payment assistance”, including providing Section 8 housing vouchers to every eligible family to ensure nobody pays more than 30% of income to rent.

    • There are numerous ideas to addressing homelessness, including developing a national strategy for making housing a right for all and reforming federal housing programs to take a “housing first” approach as popularized in other parts of the world.

Bernie Sanders' Housing Plan

  • Sanders’ “Housing for All” plan holds the mantra, “In the richest country in the history of the world, every American must have a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home as a fundamental right.” The key points of his plan, include:

    • A huge investment in housing production, “End the housing crisis by investing $2.5 trillion to build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units.”

    • A bold commitment to improving rental protections, “Protect tenants by implementing a national rent control standard, a ‘just-cause’ requirement for evictions, and ensuring the right to counsel in housing disputes.”

    • “Make rent affordable by making Section 8 vouchers available to all eligible families without a waitlist and strengthening the Fair Housing Act.”

    • Combat gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation, and speculation.

    • Ending homelessnes across America, including prioritizing “25,000 National Affordable Housing Trust Fund units in the first year to house the homeless.”

    • While doing all of this, Sanders’ plan considers how to leverage this investment for climate action through the Green New Deal to “achieve 100 percent sustainable energy for electricity and a fully decarbonized building sector by no later than 2030.”

Elizabeth Warren’s Housing Plan

  • Warren’s housing plan starts with the mantra, “Every American Deserves a Safe and Affordable Place to Live.” The key points of her plan, include:

    • The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act is the backbone, which Warren has already introduced multiple times to the U.S. Senate. The bill calls for an investment of $500 billion over ten years to build, preserve and rehab units for low-income families with a goal of bringing down rental costs by 10%.

    • The bill would be funded by lowering the estate taxes for those Americans inheriting a fortune from $22 million to $7 million.

    • It also tackles regressive zoning laws by putting up $10 billion into a new competitive grant program to build infrastructure, parks, roads or schools. To compete, they would have to reform land-use rules to allow for “the construction of well-located affordable housing units and to protect tenants from rent spikes and eviction.”

    • Addresses the black-white wealth gap by creating a more robust down payment assistance program for first-time homebuyers who “live in a formerly redlined neighborhood communities that were segregated by law.”


Berkeley Public Policy Journal: Housing Policy in the 2020 Democratic Primary

Bernie Sanders: Housing for All

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