Presidential candidates have been largely silent about housing policy during their campaigns, with the exception of Hillary Clinton, who laid out a comprehensive plan in February to give all Americans what she considers to be a fair shot at homeownership.
Now Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) is offering a plan of his own to address the affordable housing crisis in the United States following a tour of the New York City Housing Authority’s Howard Houses in Brooklyn last weekend.
“While the housing market has improved since the worst days of the housing meltdown and recession, millions of Americans remain underwater with their mortgages and millions more can’t get a loan to buy a house,” Sanders said on his website. “On the rental side, more than 7 million households lack access to adequate affordable housing, with many facing a daily choice between housing, food, and healthcare. Meanwhile, many working families, veterans, the mentally ill and the poor are living in their cars, in homeless shelters, or simply out on the street. That is unacceptable.”
In order to combat the affordable housing crisis, Sanders said he will take on a number of initiatives should he be elected president in November. Those include:
- Expanding the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to $5 billion a year in order to rehabilitate 3.5 million affordable housing units over the next decade;
- Closing the wage/rent cap by raising the minimum wage to $20 per hour by the year 2020; reinvigorating federal housing programs by returning to pre-2010 funding levels and ending sequestration to invest more in affordable housing;
- Defending and strengthening fair housing laws;
- Requiring housing built with government subsidies to remain affordable for longer than 10, 15, or 20 years
- Sufficient funding for public housing operating and capital costs;
- Protecting rental assistance by fully funding to all existing project-base rental assistance contracts; and
- Expanding housing choice initiative by increasing funding for the housing choice voucher program, targeting families with the most need.
Sanders also promised, as president, to engage in a number of initiatives to help first-time buyers achieve homeownership.
“Owning a home remains one of the best ways for families to build wealth and enter the middle class,” Sanders said. “However, for decades, wages have not kept up with the median costs of homes, putting homeownership out of reach for millions of families.”
Initiatives to increase homeownership include:
- Expanding the HUD and USDA Rural development assistance programs for first-time homeownership, namely through down-payment assistance, loan guarantees, and direct loans
- Investing in the expansion of pre-purchase housing counseling to give families a better chance at succeeding at homeownership
- Credit score reform in order to repair the credit of millions of Americans who had their scores ruined by foreclosure or other financial hardships during the crisis
- Cracking down on predatory lending by “requiring that all mortgage costs are clear, risks are visible, and nothing is buried in fine print, the CFBP makes sure consumers have the information they need to make good financial decisions.”
- Expanding homeowner mortgage interest benefits to the 19 million homeowners who do not itemize their taxes
Sanders has also pledged to assist underwater homeowners and homeowners facing foreclosure with initiatives that include reinvigorating the government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), which was designed to help underwater homeowners who are current on mortgage payments, but because of inadequate outreach and various barriers has not helped all eligible homeowners; and expanding foreclosure mitigation counseling to help borrowers at risk of foreclosure find a solution to keeping their homes.