February 27, 2020

2020 Election Update: Candidates Weigh in on Affordable Housing During South Carolina Debate

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This week in Charleston, South Carolina, Presidential candidates were asked the second housing policy question of the 2020 Presidential Election debate cycle. The question, “How will your policies address and ensure affordable housing and education equity for minimum wage workers?” came from Twitter, with Senator Klobuchar, Senator Warren, and Mayor Bloomberg all responding directly, and Vice President Biden and Mr. Steyer both tying their answers to the following question—which asked about reversing “years of inequities” for African Americans, highlighting the need to improve racial equity in the housing market. 

Klobuchar Proposes Eliminating Section 8 Waiting Lists, Focuses on Rural Housing

Senator Klobuchar began her response by discussing the connection between housing and opportunity, stating that “one sure way we can ensure kids get a good start is having a roof over their head, and a stable place to live.” Then, she explained that her administration would focus on improving access to affordable housing in three ways. First, Klobuchar promised to eliminate the Section 8 backlog by providing housing vouchers for the hundreds of thousands of people currently on the waitlist. Second, Klobuchar explained that she would create incentives to stimulate the production of affordable housing. Finally, Klobuchar would provide resources to help individuals pay for housing. 

Closing her remarks, Klobuchar emphasized the fact that housing affordability is a challenge for rural communities and not exclusively something that effects urban areas, and called for a coalition between urban and rural interests on the issue of affordable housing. 

Warren Presses for Policies to Undo Historical Racial Discrimination in Housing Market

Senator Warren was quick to make the connection between housing and racial equity, stating, “It is important to recognize the role that the federal government played for decades and decades in discriminating against African-Americans having an opportunity to buy homes.” Warren explained that her administration would enact housing legislation with a component that would “specifically…deal with the effects of redlining.”

Bloomberg Highlights Record on Affordable Housing 

When Mayor Bloomberg was asked about affordable housing, he emphasized his record in New York City. Saying he fought against redlining before, during, and after the 2008 financial crisis, he explained that his administration created 175,000 units of affordable housing in the City. He finished his answer by calling for bipartisan cooperation on affordable housing legislation at the federal level.

Biden Promises to Support First-time Homebuyers and Combat Displacement

Asked about systemic racism, Vice President Biden also referred to his record as a councilman combating redlining before pivoting to explaining three priorities that a Biden administration would have. First, he touted his proposal to create a $15,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers to help low-income households build and retain wealth. Second, he committed to finding a way to combat gentrification and reduce displacement. Finally, he explained that his administration would look at ways to close the race-based appraisal gap that persists in communities.

Steyer Centers Race

Mr. Steyer used his time to connect racial equity to the housing market as well, beginning: “Every policy area in the United States has a gigantic subtext of race…we’re talking about education, we’re talking about criminal justice, we’re talking about housing, we’re talking about loans.” He cited his own experience starting a bank to “correct the injustice in the financial services industry,” an effort that “supported over 8,000 affordable housing units.”

Additional Comments on Housing

While neither Mayor Buttigieg or Senator Sanders were called upon to answer this question directly, both candidates mentioned affordable housing in different contexts during the debate. Buttigieg explained “All these things are connected, housing, wages, the ability to get anything meaningful done on criminal justice reform. All these things are going to be harder to deal with as long as Black voices are systematically excluded from political participation.” Later in the debate, Sanders called for the United States to build “the millions of units of affordable housing that we need.”

Enterprise is pleased to see continued discussion of affordable housing in the 2020 Presidential race, and encourages all Presidential candidates to continue to engage seriously with the need to increase the supply and availability of safe, stable and affordable homes. More information on affordable housing in the Democratic primary debates can be found on Enterprise’s blog. Receive full coverage of affordable housing news going forward by signing up for our daily and biweekly newsletters, Today in Housing and Capitol Express.

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