Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders teased a $2.5 trillion housing plan, which, among other things, promises to establish a national rent control standard and make significant investments in affordable housing. Like Sanders, several other Democratic candidates have released proposals to tackle housing inequality in America. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, unsurprisingly, has one of the most detailed plans, with policies he says would tackle the homelessness crisis. Meanwhile, former Texas rep. Beto O’Rourke has yet to release any kind of housing plan (or respond to criticism of his controversial record on the issue).
Below you’ll find the key points in the housing plans of every Democratic who has qualified for October’s debate so far. (We’ll also note if a candidate has yet to provide a housing plan.) A couple of recurring themes you’ll see: incentives to eliminate strict zoning rules that prohibit affordable housing development, and plans to tackle racial inequality in housing opportunities.
No plan provided, but supports making low-income communities more energy-efficient and ensuring all formerly incarcerated individuals have access to housing after re-entry.
Create a Renter’s Credit; this would provide a refundable tax credit for those struggling to pay rent. “Anyone paying more than 30 percent of their before-tax income would be eligible for the credit.”
Create “Baby Bonds,” federally-funded savings accounts for every child, beginning at $1,000 and growing up to $2,000 every year (depending on that family’s income). “By the age of 18, low-income account-holders would have access to nearly $50,000 in seed capital to do the kind of things that create wealth and change life trajectories, including putting a down payment on a home.”
Create more affordable housing by eliminating restrictive zoning rules and allocating $40 billion to the Housing Trust Fund to create new units for low-income renters who earn less than the federal poverty level or 30 percent of the average area income.
“Properly” fund the USDA 515 program, which helps provide affordable housing for low-income families, the elderly, and those with disabilities (aimed at those living in rural areas).
Combat “discrimination and predatory practices” in the housing market through the creation of an Eviction Right to Counsel Fund, a fund for low-income families facing eviction to be provided legal counsel in court.
Fund anti-homelessness grant programs, including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs, with $6 billion annually. (These programs provide individuals with resources like shelters, rent subsidies, and transitional housing.)
Pass the “Community Homestead Act,” as part of his larger plan to tackle racial inequality in America. Under this act, cities would bid for financing, establish a “land bank” to develop abandoned or foreclosed properties, and grant ownership of this land to eligible participants.
“End homelessness for families with children.”
“Expand federal protections for tenants against eviction and unjust harassment.”
Reform the Housing Choice Voucher program—which provides affordable housing for low-income families—by expanding it to cover all families under 50 percent of the average income in that area (and to consider student loan payments when determining eligibility).
Increase construction of affordable housing through at least $45 billion of additional funds each year.
End chronic homelessness by 2028 (and child, family, and youth homelessness by the end of his first term) through investments like an additional $5 billion in funding for McKinney-Vento homeless grants and expansion of Pell Grants to cover non-tuition expenses for students.
Increase homeownership through the creation of programs like National Housing Stabilization Fund for those struggling with home insecurity, “including managing small expenses that put them at risk for foreclosure.”
Support housing counseling and financial literacy programs.
“Hold Wall Street accountable” through reforms to the housing finance system; “strengthen” the Department Of Justice’s independence and ability to hold banks accountable (including civil rights violations as they relate to housing inequality).
Create a $100 billion federal program to promote black homeownership, including providing down payments and closing assistance of up to $25,000 in total.
Amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act, so that credit scores include rent, phone, and utility payments to benefit those with limited credited histories.
Provide access to legal counsel for individuals facing eviction.
“Increase affordable rental housing in rural communities” through “significant” investment.
Give renters access to emergency funds when they are unable to pay.
No plan provided and when asked about affordable housing during a recent campaign stop in New Hampshire, O’Rourke was mostly vague; he supports the creation of “millions” of housing units. (In 2006, he also faced criticism over redevelopment in El Paso that would have impacted low-income neighborhoods and homeowners.)
Invest more than $32 billion over the next five years to address homelessness; $70 billion in public housing; and $50 billion in state and local grants for land trusts, as CNN writes. (According to Sanders, the entire program would cost $2.5 trillion over a decade.)
Create a national rent control standard which would cap annual rent at “no more than one and a half times the rate of inflation or three percent, whichever is higher.”
Lower rental costs by 10% nationally through the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which includes the investment of $500 billion over ten years to create affordable housing. “By building millions of new units, my plan will reduce the cost of rent for everyone.”
Invest $500 million in rural housing programs and $2.5 billion in theIndian Housing Block Grant and the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant “to build or rehab 200,000 homes on tribal land.”
Provide $10 billion in a grant program for state and local governments to eliminating strict zoning rules that drive up construction costs (and therefore rental costs, according to Warren).
Create a down payment assistance program aimed at first-time homebuyers who have lived in redlined neighborhoods, or communities that have been historically disenfranchised (shaped by housing discrimination and racially-based refusal of mortgages during the 1930s). “If they qualify, they are entitled to a substantial grant they can put towards a down payment on a home anywhere in the country.”
Take “whatever legal steps” to prevent real estate and private equity from trying to block rent control ballots. “More than 30 states have passed laws that explicitly prohibit cities from adopting rent control … These state laws effectively permit Wall Street to decide what’s best for cities and towns instead of the residents of those places choosing for themselves.”