Housing hasn’t been the focus for the crowded field of Democratic contenders, but that hasn’t stopped some candidates from releasing comprehensive housing plans.

After three years in office, President Donald Trump’s record on housing is pretty clear. The Republican president, who will be running for a second term in 2020, is in favor of fewer regulations, an easier permitting process for building and, at least verbally, lower property tax bills. His speech last year to the National Association of Realtors outlined those very points. 

Trump’s office has also taken aim at reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and weakened tenant discrimination protections.

The Democratic ticket is still a long way from being decided, with roughly a dozen candidates still in the race. A few of those top candidates have put out robust housing plans, while others have stayed mum on housing issues. Only Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren have floated concrete ideas with regards to how they’d pay for their plans.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders, a democratic socialist and 2020 presidential hopeful, unveiled a “housing for all plan,” to build 10 million permanently affordable housing units at a $2.5 trillion price tag. Sanders’ plan also calls for national rent control, stricter tenant protections and a strengthening of the Fair Housing Act.

“In America today, corrupt real estate developers are gentrifying neighborhoods and forcing working families out of the homes and apartments where they have lived their entire lives and replacing them with fancy condominiums and hotels that only the very rich can afford,” Sanders said, in a statement.

The plan could prove costly for real estate developers, however, as Sanders plans to impose a 25 percent tax – being called a ‘House Flipping Tax’ – on speculators who sell a non-owner-occupied property, if that property is sold for more than it was purchased within five years of purchase.

Sanders also plans to impose a two percent empty homes tax on the property value of vacant, owned homes, in an effort to get owners to bring the homes to market instead of sitting on them as a speculative investment.

Sanders’ plan also includes a “green” component to decarbonize and weatherize housing, as well as eventually make electricity free for all.

Elizabeth Warren

As a Senator, Warren introduced, last year, the American Housing and Mobility Act, which aims to close the supply-demand imbalance by 2028, add 1.5 million new jobs to the market, and decrease rents for low-and-middle-income families by 10 percent — all without a long-term deficit impact.

“Housing is the biggest expense for most working families – and costs for everyone, everywhere are skyrocketing,” Warren said in a statement. “Rural housing is falling apart, and decades of discrimination has excluded generations of black families from homeownership. My bill would cut rents by 10 percent and give families in urban, rural, and suburban communities more economic security.”

Among the particulars of the plan, Warren wants to institute a grant program to rebuild infrastructure, invest in bolstering affordable housing stock and help buyers still with negative equity from the housing crisis.

To cover the expected $500 billion cost of the bill, Warren would return the estate tax thresholds that were in place at the end of the George W. Bush administration and institute, “more progressive rates,” about those thresholds, which she says will only affect roughly 10,000 of the wealthiest families in the country.

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s website mostly stays away from focusing on housing issues, but in the criminal justice reform section, Biden unveiled a plan to, “set a national goal of ensuring 100 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry.”

To achieve that goal, Biden will direct HUD to only award contracts to entities open to housing formerly incarcerated individuals and expand funding for transitional housing.

Pete Buttigieg

As part of his “Economic Agenda for American Families,” former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg plans to invest $430 billion, to “unlock access to affordable housing.” Buttigieg said his plan would increase the supply of affordable housing, as well as work to address zoning laws to make it easier to build more housing.

He also plans to introduce a Community Homestead Act – something Sanders’ plan also includes – which would, “launch a public trust that would purchase abandoned properties and provide them to eligible residents in pilot cities while simultaneously investing in the revitalization of surrounding communities.”

Buttigieg also wants to expand tenant protections against evictions and harassment.

Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar introduced a comprehensive housing plan based after the Saving for the Future Act, she introduced jointly with Sen. Chris Coons.

Klobuchar plans to undo the Trump administration’s changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing and also plans to reinstate the Office of Fair Lending and Opportunity’s enforcement and oversight powers.
Kloubacher’s comprehensive housing plans also include strategies to address the rural housing crisis, help seniors age in place, increase access to affordable housing and encourage investment in distressed communities

Klobuchar plans to raise the capital gains rate to the income tax rate for households with an annual income of over $400,000 and raise the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Cory Booker

Senator Cory Booker’s housing plan includes a renters credit to cap rental costs at 30 percent of income for certain Americans,  the construction of new affordable units, a reform to zoning laws and the introduction of “baby bonds,” or a $1,000 savings bond for every child.

Email Patrick Kearns

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