With 2020 approaching soon, so too does the 2020 presidential election. The administration in charge of the Executive Branch has a significant impact on housing development and construction. The Republican nominee for president is clear, and if Donald Trump wins reelection, then the current system would stay in place. There are many Democrats who are in the running to challenge Trump, and with them come numerous plans to change the housing market.
Housing Issues to Be Addressed in the 2020 Election
Before focusing on what goals individual candidates want to achieve, it is important to look at the current issues that they want to address. CNN analyzed a report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, and came to several conclusions about what currently ails the housing market:
- Despite gains in 2016 and 2017, construction slowed in 2018.
- In previous years, the number of renters declined due to increases in homebuyers, but going forward there will be approximately 400,000 new renters.
- The percentage of people who spend more than 30% of their income on housing has decreased due to homeowners receiving lower mortgage interest rates. On the other hand, almost half of all renters are paying more than 30% of their income on housing.
- Millennials are starting families, but the housing market isn’t providing homes that they can afford with their income/student debt. Construction of homes under 1800 square feet made up 22% of new housing (down by 10 percentage points from less than 2 decades ago).
- Homelessness did decrease between 2008 and 2018 thanks to policies that ignored past substance abuse issues or job training. The rate started to go up again in 2018, especially on the West Coast.
While there did seem to be improvement post-recession, prices are beginning to go up, and this makes it difficult for people to afford to buy homes. Rent is also high, so finding affordable apartments is also difficult. Some local governments have attempted to provide rent controlled housing, but Chris Herbert, Managing Director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, disagrees with this approach.
“The fact that we’re turning to rent control is a sign that we’ve failed at other direct ways of addressing these issues,” Herbert said. “We’re not providing enough direct subsidy to people who need it.”
If rent control is not a viable solution, then how should homelessness and affordable housing be addressed? This is where the presidential candidates come in. Many solutions have been put forward, including: tax credits, federal programs, regulatory changes, and legal protections.
Housing Solutions by 2020 Candidates
A Renters Tax Credit has been endorsed by Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Julian Castro. It would give taxpayers a credit based on the difference between how much they pay in rent, and what 30% of their income is. Curbed explains that “if you paid $15,000 in rent in a year and 30 percent of your income was $10,000, you’d get $5,000 from the federal government in the form of a tax credit.”
Cory Booker has also reintroduced the idea of Baby Bonds. Under this plan, “each new baby born in the U.S. would be given a $1,000 bond, with up to $2,000 in annual additions depending on the income of the child’s family. The money would be invested in a low-risk fund managed by the Department of Treasury, and the child could have access to the money at age 18. This seed money could later be used for a downpayment on a house.”
Beto O’Rourke has proposed a policy that allows prospective homeowners to deposit money into a savings account, and have that money doubled by the U.S Postal Service. There are limitations to it, but if a person qualifies, they can (for example) deposit $2,000 into the account, and receive an additional $4,000 for a total of $6,000. This would be saved over the course of a few years, and used for downpayments on a home.
How the 2020 Election Could Impact Federal Programs
Bernie Sanders wants to guarantee housing for all Americans. “Sanders would invest $70 billion to rehabilitate the nation’s existing public housing stock. build 2 million mixed-income units, and expand the National Housing Trust Fund to help construct, rehabilitate, and preserve 7.4 million housing units for seniors and those with low-income or disabilities.”
Elizabeth Warren wants to build 3.2 million new housing units with 500 billion in federal housing funds. She believes that this will lead to rent decreasing for low and middle class families. Most of the money would fund the Housing Trust Fund, but other programs would be funded as well.
Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke agree with approach. O’Rourke, Castro, and Amy Klobuchar also want to expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, with the latter two wanting to expand Housing Choice Vouchers as well. In addition, Klobuchar intends to expand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in providing mortgages to potential homeowners.
Booker, O’Rourke and Castro want to fund HUD specifically to target the issue of homelessness. In addition, O’Rourke wants to triple the funding of Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness to 194 million, as well as provide additional counseling options for children, veterans, and members of the LGBT community who have experienced homelessness.
Sanders, Warren, and Booker all have plans for combatting housing discrimination and promoting fair housing and strengthening legal protections. O’Rourke would reinstate the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing rule, and update credit score parameters as to benefit communities that are typically discriminated against in this way. Harris and Klobuchar plan to change credit requirements as well.
All three, together with Booker, plan to ban discrimination based on people who use housing vouchers to pay for their rent. Harris also wants to add 100 billion to a HUD grant program to assist with down payments and closing costs. Warren would provide grants for down payments, as well as reform the Community Reinvestment Act that requires banks to invest in communities they have branches in. Something Klobuchar agrees with.
Many candidates also have platforms to reform zoning laws. The federal government cannot dictate local zoning laws, however, so all the candidates can do is try to incentivize local governments through various grants and funding.
There are many details to these policies, and many candidates who have put thought into the housing issues currently plaguing the country. The visions they have for the country will certainly impact the housing market if one of them wins the White House in 2020.
Housingwire provides links to every candidate’s housing plan who has released one.