The Iowa caucuses are over and voters in that state have handed the momentum in the race for the Democrat nominee for U.S. President to U.S. Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards. The focus has been on the war in Iraq, taxes, Medicare, the economy and job creation. But where do the candidates stand on housing?

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition surveyed the candidates’ Web sites to ascertain their views and record their campaign promises on affordable housing issues. The advocates found six of the nine candidates’ Web sites contained some sort affordable housing statement.

The Web site of Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, declared the winner in Iowa, stated that the National Housing Trust Fund Act he introduced in the Senate would increase home ownership among Hispanics and African-Americans by spurring “the construction of new, affordable rental units for low income families.” Kerry also pledged to “improve home ownership and to build safe, affordable housing in Indian Country.” Kerry also would support tax credits to increase the stock of universal design housing, direct HUD to ensure housing authorities meet the mandatory 5 percent accessibility requirement for new housing, and target additional vouchers to enable people in nursing homes and other institutions to return to their homes, NLIHC found.

Sen. John Edwards, the close second-place finisher in Iowa, would increase access to quality “urban housing,” introduce the American Dream Tax Credit, which would offer low- and moderate-income families up to $5,000 to help make a down payment on their first home, strengthen enforcement of the federal Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act and fully fund both the Sec. 8 Voucher Program and HOPE VI. He also would support brownfield redevelopment programs and would support Community Development Block Grants and other programs that seek “locally developed partnerships” to bring affordable housing and business to low-income communities, according to his Web site.

Gov. Howard Dean, who had been tagged by the press as the Democratic frontrunner, would create a National Housing Trust Fund along the lines of one created in Vermont during his tenure as governor, double funding for the federal Community Development Block Grant program to revitalize neighborhoods and build affordable housing, and crack down on predatory lending, according to NLIHC’s review of his Web site.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, another Democratic candidate, would implement the National Housing Trust Fund Act, increase HUD’s budget by 63 percent (to its 1978 level), restore funds to the USDA’s Sec. 515 Rural Rental Housing Program and support the Rural Rental Housing Assistance Act, which would “create a new $250 million to fund to acquire, rehabilitate, or construct rural rental housing for low income people, with priority for very low income households.” Kucinich also would reverse the Bush administration’s opposition to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to support “the right to housing through international cooperation.”

Democratic candidate Ret. General Wesley Clark, who didn’t participate in the Iowa contest, would increase the per-person allocation of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, fully fund the HOPE VI public housing program and the Sec. 8 rental voucher program, which he opposes block granting to the states. He also supports the successful Continuum of Care approach to reduce homelessness. He would curtail sprawl by making public transportation more accessible to low-income communities, expand the New Markets Tax Credit and provide adequate funding to clean up brownfields, NLIHC reported.

Democrats Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rev. Al Sharpton don’t mention housing on their Web sites; however, NLIHC cautioned that this silence don’t necessary mean they don’t have a housing agenda. Gephardt told the Detroit News, he would “create a national trust fund to develop low-income housing.” Lieberman has said he would “create special accounts to help poor people buy homes.”

President George W. Bush, the unopposed Republican candidate, in October outlined a five-point agenda to topple barriers to home ownership. His plan would provide down payment assistance through the American Dream Down Payment Fund, use the Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit to increase the supply of affordable housing, increase support for self-help home ownership programs and simplify the home-buying process, according to NLIHC’s survey findings. The last point presumably would refer to the President’s support for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposal to revise the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

NLIHC is a nonprofit bipartisan organization and as such does not endorse candidates for political office.

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