Are renters emerging as a new voting bloc?

Ballot measures across the country are tackling renters’ issues

Nov.November 05, 2018 05:30 PM

(Credit: iStock)

A range of ballot measures could draw renters to the polls this year.

People who rent tend to vote at lower rates than homeowners, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a new study. But various measures that tackle issues like affordable housing could motivate more renters to to head to the polls — and swing outcomes.

“Analysis shows that renters do have significant potential to swing elections and have a distinct set of needs,” Christopher Salviati, housing economist at Apartment List, told the Journal. “Thinking about them as a distinct voting coalition is increasing.”

An analysis of 2016 election data shows people living in rental housing made up about 30 percent of the eligible voting population, with homeowners comprising 70 percent. About 49 percent of eligible renters went to the polls, compared with 67 percent of eligible homeowners, the report said.

In New York, Republican Senate candidate Chele Farley has proposed an itemized deduction on monthly rent. In her plan, the federal tax deduction would be capped at $3,000 per month, or $36,000 annually. Farley has cited it as an approach to tackling housing affordability.

Meanwhile, California voters will decide on Proposition 10, which if passed would repeal a state law restricting rent control across the state, opening the floodgates for new rent control laws. Proposition 10 has turned into one of the most expensive questions on this year’s ballot, as Los Angeles and the state overall grapple with a extreme shortage of affordable housing.

In Chicago, voters in three wards will cast their ballots on whether the existing statewide ban on rent control should be lifted. The results are advisory, meaning they carry no weight to force legislative action. State lawmakers have separately proposed legislation to either lift the ban and not impose an alternative, or implement rent control outright.

And in Florida, Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor, and Bill Nelson, who is vying to remain senator, have campaigned for more affordable housing. Nelson, for example, supported increasing spending on affordable housing after tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans evacuated to Florida following Hurricane Maria last year. The Florida Realtors Association pushed lawmakers to fund the effort using real estate sales taxes that are supposed to be set aside for affordable housing but often get used for general costs.

Still, some are skeptical about thinking of renters as a specific voting bloc, the report said.

“Where that model gets you into trouble is the belief that any voting group is monolithic,” Republican strategist Charlie Gerow told the Journal, “because they’re not.” [WSJ] — Meenal Vamburkar

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