Affordable housing is poised to become a more prominent issue in the 2020 presidential race, with several potential Democratic candidates releasing proposals on the topic in recent months.
Housing hasn’t been a top issue in past presidential elections, but Democratic strategists and housing experts say it could be a bigger part of the debate in the coming years as concern grows about how housing costs have increased faster than wages.
“In the last year, I’ve seen more attention to housing costs at the federal level, but also at the state and local level,” said Jenny Schuetz, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), there is a shortage of more than 7 million rental homes that would be affordable to the lowest income renters.
In a number of populous areas, particularly in the Northeast and West Coast, housing is also becoming too expensive for middle-class families, said Schuetz.
Three Democratic senators who many expect to run for president in 2020 — Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) — have all introduced bills aimed at reducing housing burdens. The senators also represent states with some of the highest housing costs.
Harris’s bill, introduced in July, would create a refundable tax credit for renters who pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. The bill has several co-sponsors, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has also been floated as a possible presidential candidate.
Booker’s bill, introduced in August, would similarly create a refundable tax credit and would also have jurisdictions receiving Community Development Block Grants develop strategies to create more affordable housing supplies.
Warren’s bill, introduced in late September, is the most comprehensive of the three.
It includes provisions aimed at lowering housing prices, such as by authorizing more federal funds to help build low- and middle-income housing and by creating a competitive grant program in which jurisdictions can get access to funds for infrastructure if they loosen their zoning laws. It also includes provisions aimed at making whole people who have been discriminated against in the past under housing policies.
“This bill will help millions of people lower their housing costs and help millions more on the path to making the promise of the American dream become a reality,” Warren wrote in an op-ed in The Root published earlier this month.
Besides Harris, Gillibrand, Booker and Warren, other possible Democratic presidential candidates may also be poised to make housing a key plank in their campaigns. Several people with backgrounds as state and local elected officials in high-cost areas, such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, could get into the race.
And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for increasing investments in affordable housing during his 2016…