The Real Deal National

Presidential debate 2020: Where do these Democratic candidates stand on housing?

In a crowded field, some of the presidential contenders are proposing sweeping changes on housing affordability
By Sylvia Varnham O’Regan and Keith Larsen | June 26, 2019 06:00PM

From left: Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Bill de Blasio, Elizabeth Warren and John Delaney (Credit: Getty Images)

From left: Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Bill de Blasio, Elizabeth Warren and John Delaney (Credit: Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she will pump $500 billion into building and preserving affordable housing.

Sen. Cory Booker wants to offer a tax credit to renters to ensure that they don’t spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

And former Congressman John Delaney of Maryland has long favored privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

They are among the 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls who have made housing-related issues a major part of their campaigns so far, and who will face off Wednesday in Miami, for the first debate in a crowded field.

From left: Julián Castro, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Tim Ryan (Credit: Getty Images)

From left: Julián Castro, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Tim Ryan (Credit: Getty Images)

Their views on housing and rent policies will be closely watched by the real estate industry, and come on the heels of New York state’s sweeping rent reform law that some landlords have called “devastating.”

Some Democrats have made housing policy a top priority in their campaigns as housing costs have risen to all-time highs in major metro areas such as New York and Miami, forcing people to either move out of the cities or pay a much higher portion of their income in rent.

Other candidates have been more vague. Beto O’Rourke has yet to offer a concrete housing policy and Sen. Amy Klobuchar has yet to release a long-awaited plan.

Below is a list of the 10 candidates participating in Wednesday’s debate and their stated positions on housing. On Thursday, TRD will provide brief summaries of the 10 candidates expected to participate in that night’s debate.

Cory Booker

The New Jersey senator has made housing affordability a key issue in his campaign. Booker’s most sweeping proposal is to offer a tax credit to renters to ensure that they do not spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

The credit would make up the difference between 30 percent of an individual’s income and the fair market rent in their neighborhood. It would apply to 57 million Americans, according to the New York Times.

Booker also wants to place $40 billion in the Housing Trust Fund to help renters who are earning less than the federal poverty level or 30 percent of the area median income, according to Politico. The senator is further proposing to offer federal incentives to municipalities to change zoning laws that are making housing costs more unaffordable.

Julián Castro

Castro, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Obama has one of the most detailed plans to date on how he will address the nation’s housing challenges.

His three-part housing policy plan seeks to address “the rental affordability crisis” and end homelessness; provide equal housing opportunities and address gentrification; and hold Wall Street accountable for its role in driving up housing prices.

Like Booker, Castro wants to offer a rental tax credit to provide relief to renters paying more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. In addition, Castro is looking to expand Housing Choice Voucher Program for more families.

Bill de Blasio

A late entry to the race, the New York City mayor introduced his campaign with a video titled, “Working People First,” which traced his greatest achievements as mayor. Absent from the video was any mention of housing-related issues, despite the significance of housing in his administration. In June, during a radio interview, de Blasio was pressed on whether he had created a federal affordable housing policy, but said he would announce specific positions in time.

In his time as mayor, de Blasio has prioritized affordable housing, including introducing a plan to preserve or build 300,000 affordable housing units by 2026. In 2018, the city invested more than $1.7 billion to increase affordable housing by building new units and preserving existing ones, The Real Deal reported. The city’s housing authority has also has been dogged by problems. In April 2018, the former chair, Shola Olatoye, resigned in the wake of a lead paint scandal, triggering a lengthy search for her replacement. Later that year, the NYCHA was labelled the worst landlord of the year by the Public Advocate’s Office. The appointment this month of the new chairman, Gregory Russ, has also been controversial, in part because of his large salary — Russ is set to earn more than both the mayor and the governor — and also because he will initially be dividing his time between New York and his family home in Minnesota. Meanwhile, housing prices and levels of homelessness in the city have continued to climb.

John Delaney

Delaney, a former Congressman from Maryland and businessman, was a vocal advocate of housing finance reform. He put forward legislation in 2014 that would have privatized the government conservatorship of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to HousingWire.

“The government needs to get out of the mortgage finance market that it has long dominated,” Delaney said in 2014, HousingWire reported. Delaney is also an advocate of the federal Opportunity Zones program, which gives developers and investors a tax break for investing in low-income areas across the country.

Delaney has not yet publicly announced any plans on his website on housing. His major focus seems to be on improving America’s lagging infrastructure through a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

Tulsi Gabbard

Gabbard is a controversial progressive congresswoman from Hawaii who has yet to provide nuanced plans on her presidential campaign website about housing policy.

During her time as a congresswoman, Gabbard has supported initiatives to increase federal funding to state and local governments to address housing issues. These include adding funding for Section 8 Housing, Housing for the Elderly, and Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant and Loan programs. She has also strongly supported Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Jay Inslee

The governor of Washington since 2013, Inslee’s “Evergreen Economy Plan” lays out a series of affordable-housing policy plans. Those include creating more financial incentives for investment in green housing, increasing funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service to introduce energy-efficient features such as solar, and investing in extra staff from federal agencies, including HUD, to work in local communities.

Amy Klobuchar

Launching her campaign in March, the Minnesota senator published a Medium post: “Amy’s Plan to Build America’s Infrastructure.” It stated she wanted to overhaul the country’s housing policy, and promised a comprehensive housing policy in the weeks to come.

In June, she released a 100-day plan for her presidency, which included two mentions of overhauling the country’s housing policy but added few details. Klobuchar did state that she intended to connect every household to the internet by 2022.

Beto O’Rourke

In a crowded field, the El Paso Democrat has struggled to maintain momentum, and has faced criticism for lacking in signature policy positions. Endorsing O’Rourke, South Carolina Representative Marvin Pendarvis said he was proud to support a politician who is “looking at how we can ensure that all Americans have a quality of life that is necessary in the form of healthcare and affordable housing and a quality education.”

But O’Rourke’s grassroots campaign and progressive image may be hurt by perceptions of past allegiances with real estate developers. Those include his father-in-law, billionaire tycoon William Sanders. In 2006, as an El Paso City Councilman, O’Rourke supported a proposed development led by Sanders in the historic Barrio neighborhood.

Residents who opposed the development feared they would lose their homes through eminent domain, though O’Rourke later noted that no property was taken by the city in that manner. “Mr. O’Rourke was basically the pretty face of this very ugly plan against our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” David Dorado Romo, a local historian, told the New York Times.

Tim Ryan

Ryan, a representative from Ohio’s 13th District, has yet to publicly announce his housing policy plans on his website. Ryan claims to be a champion of the working class and is best known for his opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ryan’s message is largely focused on bringing jobs back to working class communities across the country.

During his time in Congress, Ryan supported a bill adding $70 million to the Section 8 housing voucher program in 2006, which funded an additional 10,000 affordable housing vouchers.

He also pushed forward a bill this year to provide federal funding to remove neighborhood blight in low-income communities. The bill looked to provide federal grants that could be used to demolish blighted structures, clearing abandoned sites, and other activities needed to make green space ready for public access or redevelopment.

Elizabeth Warren

The Massachusetts senator has an expansive plan for housing. It was developed, she said, because “housing is not just the biggest expense for most American families — or the biggest purchase most Americans will make in their lifetimes. It also affects the jobs you can get, the schools your children can go to, and the kinds of communities you can live in.”

In a post on Medium, Warren criticized past and present governments for reducing investments in middle- and low-income housing, failing to prevent the housing crisis and discriminating against black families trying to enter the housing market by denying them federal subsidies, or “redlining.” Warren said she would reduce rental prices by 10 percent and address the lack of affordable housing.

Warren’s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act would see $500 billion invested over the next 10 years to “build, preserve, and rehab units that will be affordable housing to lower-income families.” The plan would be paid for by lowering the threshold for heirs to pay estate taxes on inheritance — from $22 million to $7 million — and raising the tax rate above that threshold, which would affect an estimated 14,000 of the wealthiest families each year, she said.