Affordable Housing Making Presidential Campaign Appearance

As we near the first Democratic Presidential debates, and push nearer the meaningful campaign season, Presidential hopefuls are beginning to flesh out positions on affordable housing.

One of the first to provide specific proposals is Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey. Pledging to make housing a priority in his 2020 campaign, Booker released his plan for affordable housing on June 5. The core of the Senator’s plan is a monthly tax credit for renters who pay more than 30% of their income in rent. Such a plan could assist more than 57 million people. The credit would refund the difference between 30% of income and the neighborhood fair market rent cap, as set by HUD. The median credit is estimated to be $4,800 per family. Senator Kamala Harris released details on a similar program in 2018. Unlike most IRS refunds or credits that pay once per year, this credit would be paid monthly.

Booker has also proposed a “Baby Bonds” program, which is a concept that has been developed by professors at Duke University and Ohio State University. This program is designed to close the black-white racial wealth gap. Under Booker’s proposal, a federally funded savings program would invest $1,000 for every child at birth in an account that “could grow up to $2,000 every year thereafter, depending on family income.” The funds could be used to help young people afford first-time down payments, and, according to the Booker campaign, could be fully funded simply be restoring the estate taxes that were assessed in 2009.

Other features of Booker’s plan include fully funding the National Housing Trust Fund with $40 billion, a national right to counsel fund for persons facing eviction and expanding the Fair Housing Act to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He has also discussed source of income protections to prevent landlords from discriminating against recipients of housing assistance (e.g., housing choice vouchers).

The most far-reaching idea in Booker’s housing platform is a proposal to steer federal funds to local efforts to eliminate restrictive zoning. Booker’s plan would link $16 billion for various block grants and federal spending programs to local easing or elimination of restrictive zoning.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of MA previously announced a housing program that would provide first-time homebuyer down payment assistance in communities once subject to federal discrimination through “redlining.” A recent report on predatory housing contracts in Chicago shows that discrimination in housing and lending siphoned billions of dollars from black households.

As the campaign season heats up, more candidates will develop affordable housing plans, which for the first time in history, may become a major issue during the Presidential campaign season.