Here’s how Bernie, Biden and the remaining presidential candidates would tackle housing crisis

All would focus on affordability — Sen. Sanders’ $2.5T proposal is the priciest plan

National /
Mar.March 02, 2020 12:31 PM
From left: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar (Credit: Getty Images)

From left: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar (Credit: Getty Images)

UPDATED, March 2, 1:57 p.m.: Though all of the top five Democratic presidential candidates have detailed plans to address the country’s housing affordability crisis, the issue has received scant attention amid the grinding campaign.

The dire need for more housing construction and the battle over rent reform across the nation have also been largely ignored on the debate stage. It wasn’t until last week’s 10th primary debate that housing was even addressed, and just two questions were asked.

That’s despite a national public opinion poll last year that found three-quarters of respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate with a detailed plan for making housing more affordable.

In September, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his $2.5 trillion housing plan, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s plan standing at $1 trillion, former Vice President Joe Biden’s clocking in at $640 million and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s at $500 billion. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also released a plan. Pete Buttigieg, who had been among the top candidates, dropped out of the race Sunday night.

Indeed, affordability concerns have led 15 states — which represent more than half the country’s existing apartment stock — to call for tougher rent laws to protect tenants.

The federal budget President Trump proposed last month, meanwhile, would cut Housing and Urban Development’s discretionary funding by $8.6 billion — about 15 percent of the 2020 enacted budget. It would also eliminate the block grant program, which funds local infrastructure and community programs, and reduce rental subsidies for low-income residents. The proposed budget cuts follow a rollback of an Obama-era fair housing policy.

Heading into Super Tuesday, where over a dozen states hold presidential primaries for about a third of the total delegate count, The Real Deal is putting housing front and center for voters. Here is how each candidate’s plan stacks up.

Bernie Sanders

The current Democratic frontrunner’s $2.5 trillion initiative includes significant new federal funding for the construction of social, affordable and mixed-income housing, preservation of existing housing and a national “just cause” eviction standard that would make it more difficult for landlords to force out tenants.

The Vermont senator’s plan would spend about $1.5 trillion over 10 years to repair and maintain 7.4 million housing units, and $400 billion for mixed-income social housing through the National Affordable Housing Trust fund. It proposes putting $32 billion over the next five years toward ending homelessness, in part by creating 25,000 new units for the homeless and doubling homelessness assistance grants. The measure also includes $3 billion to build and preserve affordable housing on Indian reservations, and $500 million to expand affordable development in rural areas.

Sanders’ proposal would also ease restrictive zoning ordinances — allowing for more housing development — fully fund HUD’s Section 8 program and expand federal mechanisms for combating predatory lending and mortgage fraud.

Joe Biden

Fresh off a big victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, the former vice president’s housing plan proposes investing $640 billion housing over 10 years. It would focus on housing affordability by strengthening existing measures.

Biden would spend $300 million on Local Housing Policy Grants, to help municipalities reduce exclusionary zoning, and provide a $15,000 credit for first-time homebuyers. Joining Klobuchar and Sanders, the Delaware senator would also expand the Section 8 program to provide the subsidy to every income-eligible family and end the waiting list. He would also set aside $5 billion annually in federal funding for a renter’s tax credit.

The Lower-Income Housing Tax credit would also see an additional $10 billion investment, while funding for community development block grants, which fund local infrastructure and community development, would increase $10 billion over 10 years.

Biden would also reinstate a rule that was suspended in 2018, which mandated local governments assess housing patterns to address any housing discrimination.

In late December, Biden’s campaign released a list of over 250 individuals who raised at least $25,000 for the candidate. It included a host of big-name real estate players like RXR Realty CEO Scott Rechler and Marcus & Millichap founder and chairman George Marcus.

Michael Bloomberg

The former New York City mayor’s plan focuses on strengthening fair housing measures, encouraging home-ownership and the creation of a new agency to combat discrimination.

Bloomberg’s plan would see the creation of the Housing Fairness Commission, which would be funded with an initial $10 billion, to identify and implement policies that reduce housing discrimination.

Bloomberg said he would provide tenants better access to social services and increase federal spending on homelessness, from less than $3 billion to $6 billion a year. His proposal would also guarantee Section 8 vouchers for all Americans at or below 30% of the area median income, and expand federal grants to cities that combat unfair eviction.

Instead of additional funding for public housing, Bloomberg would streamline the RAD approval process, a program that uses public-private partnerships to fund public housing, by lifting the cap on city projects and eliminating the need for site-by-site federal approval. He would also set aside $10 billion in federal funds for competitive bids on affordable housing development.

Federal mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would also be merged into a single entity. The Trump administration has said it wants to overhaul Fannie and Freddie, ending the decades-long government conservatorship after the government took control of the firms in the wake of the financial crisis.

Elizabeth Warren

The Massachusetts senator is the only candidate who did not include a mention for Section 8 housing in her plan. Instead, Warren is focusing on the production of affordable units and added funding for public housing.

Warren says in her housing plan that the root cause of the nation’s affordability crisis is a lack of new construction of affordable homes. In addition, Warren includes a federal “just cause” eviction standard for renters and set aside $4 billion in “emergency funds” for middle-class rental housing.

Warren proposed $500 billion over the next 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab deeply affordable units.

Like Bloomberg and Klobuchar, Warren would incentivize new development through a competitive $10 billion grant program — which would be awarded to local governments that reform their land-use rules. While she does not specify a dollar figure in her plan, Warren proposed “completely closing” the national public housing capital repair backlog — which currently stands at $70 billion.

Amy Klobuchar

The Minnesota senator’s housing plan would cost an estimated $1 trillion, and joins most of the other candidates by extending Section 8 to all income-eligible applicants.

Klobuchar is also proposing significant $50 billion to deal with the massive backlog of deferred capital repairs in the public housing stock across the country. She would incentivize local zoning reforms by awarding federal housing and infrastructure grants to municipalities that amend their laws.

Her plan would also incentivize local governments to implement “just cause” eviction protections and a tenant bill of rights, and prohibit landlords from asking potential renters about past criminal convictions.

This article published before Amy Klobuchar announced she would drop out of the presidential race.


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