Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders released his much-anticipated $2.5 trillion housing plan today.
The Vermont senator and presidential candidate would cap annual rent increases at 3 percent or one and a half times the consumer price index, whichever is higher. He would also allow states and cities to pass their own rent-control standards, even if they had stricter limits on rent increases.
Sanders also promised to enact “just cause” eviction, which limits the cases in which a landlord can evict a tenant, including for high rent increases. Versions of it are already in place in Oregon and New Jersey, and another is expected to be passed in California. A similar measure failed in New York in June.
“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,” Sanders said in a statement. “We need a homes guarantee.”
The plan would spend $1.48 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 units for the homeless and doubling homelessness assistance grants. The plan also includes $3 billion for the Indian Housing Block Grant Program and $500 million to expand affordable development in rural areas.
The wide-ranging plan has provisions that Sanders says would address public housing funding shortfalls, end homelessness, decarbonize public and market-rate housing by 2030 and strengthen provisions to prevent housing discrimination.
The plan not only calls for a dramatic increase in investment in affordable housing, but also outlines changes long championed by supporters of market-based solutions, notably easing restrictive zoning ordinances and the development review process. Sanders would also expand federal mechanisms for identifying and combating predatory lending and mortgage fraud.
Sanders would also create an office within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to work with cities to beef up rent control, which would include academics, local officials, homeowners and tenants. Another new body, the National Fair Housing Agency, would be modeled on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to enforce housing standards by conducting audits and rooting out housing discrimination.
Sanders would also invest $70 billion to repair and modernize public housing and, as part of the Green New Deal, electrify, decarbonize and retrofit housing stock. He would fully fund the Section 8 program, which reimburses landlords in return for keeping units affordable. The New York City Housing Authority provides affordable housing to at least 400,000 in New York, but has faced chronic underfunding and management scandals.
The plan would increase enforcement of non-descrimination policies, including the Fair Housing Act and income-based discrimination, and provide $2 billion for tenants’ right to counsel in eviction or foreclosure proceedings. The plan would also expand the “Small Area Fair Market Rent Rule,” which ensures Section 8 landlords are not overcompensated.
The plan would impose a 2 percent “empty homes” tax and a 25 percent “house flipping” tax. It includes provisions to end exclusionary and restrictive zoning, replacing them with zoning intended to encourage integration and affordability.