Presidential debate 2020 Night 2: Here’s where these Democratic candidates stand on housing

The housing policies of these 10 presidential hopefuls include investment in affordable housing, advocating for rent reform and tying climate policy to development

From left: Michael Bennett, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris (Credit: Getty Images)
From left: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris (Credit: Getty Images)

Some of the 10 Democratic candidates for president taking the stage at Thursday’s debate in Miami have wrapped their housing policies in larger proposals like the environment.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is among them. Biden wants to increase the energy efficiency of low-income housing and increase density in neighborhoods, which could shorten commute times.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to heavily invest in green infrastructure like public transit as part of a Green New Deal, a concept many other candidates back.

From left: John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang (Credit: Getty Images)

From left: John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang (Credit: Getty Images)

Others, like U.S. senators Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, want to provide a $6,000 annual tax credit to renter families making less than $100,000 a year.

The 10 candidates who appeared in Wednesday’s debate said little on the issue despite many having clear positions.

Below is a list of the 10 candidates participating in Thursday’s debate and their stance on housing.

Michael Bennet
The Colorado senator’s top campaign issue is battling climate change, which includes cutting energy consumption in buildings and infrastructure in half by 2040.

Details are light on housing-related plans, but Bennet says he wants to address the affordable housing crisis as part of a larger effort to lower costs for low- and middle-income Americans.

Joe Biden

Biden’s housing policy is largely connected to his climate policy. He has pledged to direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to increase the energy efficiency of low-income housing, and wants to change local regulations that will make it easier to build denser affordable housing close to public transportation as a way to shorten commute times and decrease the country’s carbon footprint.

In the Obama administration, the former vice president supported proposals like boosting housing vouchers, and implementing a policy grant program to help alter local zoning measures, along with an expansion of low-income housing tax credits.

Pete Buttigieg
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has called for a national investment in affordable housing and the elimination of what he calls unnecessary land use rules that prevent affordable housing from being built. He also wants to attempt to address the country’s history of racial discrimination in housing and expand federal protections for tenants facing eviction and harassment.

In his time as mayor, Buttigieg pushed through an aggressive and controversial economic revitalization plan for the city that included expediting code enforcement to tear down 1,000 deteriorating homes in 1,000 days. This created tension largely with some of South Bend’s African-American population, who government executives acknowledged were disproportionately affected by the plan. Buttigieg himself recently told the Christian Science Monitor, “I’m not sure we got that completely right.” He announced an increase in home repair grants earlier this year.

Kirsten Gillibrand
New York’s junior senator has not made housing a signature issue so far, but has signed onto housing plans from fellow presidential candidates and senators, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

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In the final year of President Bill Clinton’s administration, she served as special counsel to then-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo. Gillibrand just recently announced legislation to block a proposed HUD rule that would ban families with mixed citizenship status from receiving federal housing aid.

Kamala Harris
The California senator’s proposed Rent Relief Act would provide a tax credit for renters spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities, the level considered a financial burden on tenants.

Harris said she will “fight to empower unions” and supports a $15 national minimum wage, which developers have said will drive up their construction costs.

Harris would reverse tax cuts for wealthy Americans and large companies that were part of the 2017 tax overhaul, and create a $6,000 annual tax credit for “working families,” according to her campaign site. She supports the Green New Deal and further investment in green energy.

John Hickenlooper
The former governor of Colorado supports a federal tax relief program for businesses in Opportunity Zones, although hasn’t specified if that applies to development projects.

In his final year as governor in 2018, he signed into law an extension of state affordable housing tax credit through 2024. The program is based on the federal tax credit program, which has seen declining investment following the 2017 tax overhaul.

Bernie Sanders
Last year, the Vermont senator expressed support for California’s ultimately unsuccessful Proposition 10 ballot measure, which would have repealed a state law limiting rent control and allowed jurisdictions to pass new rent reform laws.

Sanders proposes expanding federal funding for affordable housing and has specifically pointed to investment in rural affordable housing.

He supports a Green New Deal that would pump money into local public transit projects and other infrastructure development projects. Without going into much detail, Sanders’ campaign site says the senator wants to “create a path to wealth-building through homeownership.”

Eric Swalwell
The six-year California congressman represents a chunk of the East Bay area near San Francisco and has spoken about a handful of real estate issues.

Swalwell supported a California state bill — now stalled — to rezone areas near transit hubs and some single-family areas across the state for higher-density housing.

Critical of the Republican-led tax overhaul of 2017, he said it discouraged investment in affordable housing tax credits, a key driver of affordable housing financing. Swalwell is a renter but said he’d leave the now hot topic of rent control up to individual jurisdictions. He has voiced support for the Green New Deal, but hasn’t outright endorsed it. The plan would create new environmentally-friendly requirements of both new developments and older buildings.

Marianne Williamson
An author and activist, Williamson’s housing policy includes protecting homeowners from predatory lending practices. According to the economic plan outlined in her campaign website, Williamson also wants to increase homeowner access to loan modifications that will help people avoid foreclosure.

Andrew Yang
Yang, a businessman and entrepreneur, wants the government to subsidize moving costs for Americans who are relocating for work. He has proposed giving them a $1,000 tax refund to anyone moving for a new job, in addition to his widely discussed universal basic income proposal of $1,000 per month.

Yang has also proposed the American Mall Act, which aims to find a use for the malls across the country that are shutting down or struggling as more and more Americans buy products online. The proposal calls for revitalizing the buildings to be used as anything ranging from offices to churches to indoor recreation space. That is largely underway at many malls around the country, as a number of companies have acquired the failing mega-properties, and are repurposing them.