August 2, 2019

Presidential Candidates Raise Important Housing Issues

On Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit, 20 Democrats took the stage at the second round of the DNC’s 2020 Presidential Primary Debates. Taking their case to the American people, the candidates laid out their vision for the future of the United States’ economy. As the candidates discussed their various plans for reducing income inequality, promoting racial equity, and ensuring better outcomes for the nation’s next generation, key housing policy points bubbled to the surface, highlighting the important role access to safe, stable housing plays in many issues important to Americans. In particular, candidates spoke about the ways in which robust and intelligent housing policy can improve healthcare outcomes, increase racial equity, and drive economic growth.

Lead and Healthy Homes

Moderator Dana Bash’s questions about lead remediation and climate change prompted two candidates to explicitly tie-in housing:

Mayor DeBlasio called for the federal government to take a larger role in the repair and maintenance of the nation’s housing stock, stating: “We’re going to go into every place, buildings, schools, public housing, and take out that lead, remediate that lead once and for all, and that needs to be done all over this country. Now, the federal government used to not take any responsibility for our public housing...And so we are going into every one of those apartments to make sure those children and those families are safe…and there should be a federal mandate to do the same for Flint, for Detroit, for every place in this country.”

Governor Inslee highlighted how the burdens of pollution fall disproportionally on low-income communities and households, saying: “Now, we also need to embed environmental justice. I was in zip code 48217 in the Detroit neighborhood the other day, right next to an oil refinery, where the kids have asthma and they have cancer clusters….I believe this: it doesn’t matter what your zip code is, it doesn’t matter what your color is, you ought to have clean air and clean water in America.”

Fair Housing and Consumer Protection

Candidates also emphasized the need for protections to prevent discrimination and exploitation in the housing market, because housing is a foundational component of economic opportunity.

When Don Lemon asked Secretary Castro how he would help struggling cities like Baltimore, he explained: “I would follow-up on the work that I did at HUD. We passed the most sweeping rule to further desegregate our communities in the United States.  I would also invest in housing that is affordable, because folks know that the rent is going through the roof. And we need to make sure that you don't have to get out of West Baltimore, or Inner-City Detroit, or the west side of San Antonio, or anywhere, if you want to reach your American dream. I want you to be able to accomplish it in your great neighborhood where you are.”

In response to a question from Jake Tapper on criminal justice reform, Vice President Biden argued that returning citizens should not be denied access to federal resources, stating: “And when they get out of prison, they should be in a situation where they have access to everything they would have had before, including Pell grants for education, including making sure that they're able to have housing, public housing, including they have all the opportunities that were available to them because we want them to become better citizens.”

In her closing statement, Senator Harris touted the importance of her experience fighting predatory lending: “So in my background as attorney general of California, I took on the big banks who preyed on the homeowners, many of whom lost their homes and will never be able to buy another.”

Economic Revitalization

Finally, candidates repeatedly linked economic revitalization to the lack of safe, stable, and affordable housing:

When Jake Tapper asked Secretary Castro about the state of the economy, Castro stated “There are a lot of Americans right now that are hurting. Just go and ask the folks that just received notice that they're getting laid off by General Motors, or ask the many folks who are sleeping on the streets in big cities and small towns across the United States, or ask fast food workers that I joined a couple of weeks ago that are working for minimum wage and can't provide for their families or pay the rent.”

In response to Don Lemon’s question about retraining industrial workers, Mayor Buttigieg explained: “This happened in my community 20 years before I was born. And when I was growing up, we were still picking up the pieces. Empty factories, empty houses, poverty…this is about a moment when the economy is changing before our eyes.”

Enterprise has long held that affordable housing is a cornerstone of a healthy economy, one that provides opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds, from every Zip Code. We applaud all the candidates who have raised the issue on the national stage, both in debates and in their housing policy platforms.

To stay up to date on housing developments in the 2020 election, sign up for Community Developments, Enterprise’s daily email providing a quick overview of affordable housing and community development news, and Capitol Express, our more in-depth biweekly newsletter.

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