The race for the Democratic presidential nomination effectively narrowed to a two-man race Tuesday. But Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have very different ideas about housing.

And then there were (basically) two.

After months of chaos in which an unusually crowded field of contenders vied for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden’s remarkable comeback on Super Tuesday essentially winnowed the field to himself and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. There are still other options, of course. Elizabeth Warren is soldiering on and has a comparatively small-but-passionate following. And Tulsi Gabbard remains in the race despite relatively little support or media attention.

But after the successes of Biden and Sanders in Tuesday’s various primaries, the conventional wisdom is now that one of them will eventually be the nominee.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden at a debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on Feb. 25. Credit: Win McNamee and Getty Images

Sanders and Biden both lean left, but they also have very different world views. That’s especially apparent from their respective policy proposals on housing. As one might expect from their records, Biden tends to have a more centrist approach to the issue, while Sanders champions policies generally considered to be further to the left.

Given the likelihood that one of these men will be the Democratic nominee — and potentially the president — here’s a comparison of key issues from their housing proposals:

The root of the issue

Both Sanders and Biden agree that there’s a lack of affordable housing in the U.S. right now. However, they characterize the root of the problem differently.

Biden’s proposal identifies supply shortages of affordable housing as contributing to the problem. He also says that “systemic housing discrimination” has resulted in housing shortages disproportionately impacting minority communities.

Sanders explicitly points to “corrupt real estate developers” who “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.”

Both men also say in their proposals that Trump has made the problem worse by cutting federal programs and ignoring the severity of the issue.


Biden’s proposal calls for spending $640 billion over the next 10 years.

Sanders, on the other hand, wants to invest $2.5 trillion to build affordable housing. He also has pledged to spend $70 billion on public housing. (The proposal puts a price tag on a number of other proposals as well, though it isn’t entirely clear if those are part of or in addition to the $2.5 trillion.)

Joe Biden in Los Angeles, California on March 3. Credit: Mario Tama and Getty Images

Increasing supply

Biden’s proposal states that as president, he would use $65 billion to spur the construction and rehabilitation of “low-cost, efficient, resilient and accessible housing in areas where affordable housing is in short supply.” He would also use tax credits to incentivize the construction of low-income housing.

Biden also wants to “eliminate local and state housing regulations that limit affordable housing options and contribute to urban sprawl.” Clearing regulation has become a cause célèbre in pricy coastal metro areas, and has also attracted attention from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Biden frames it as both an affordability and climate change issue. He ultimately promises in his proposal to “tie new federal investments in housing to a requirement that states and localities eliminate regulations that reduce the availability of affordable housing and contribute to sprawl.”

Sanders‘ proposal promises to build “nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units.” He also wants to use “$1.48 trillion over 10 years in the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to build, rehabilitate, and preserve” 7.4 million quality units.

Additionally, Sanders plans to use $15 billion to create a “21st Century Homestead Act,” which would be used to “purchase and revitalize abandoned properties.”

He would also like to use federal funds to build and preserve housing that “will remain affordable in perpetuity,” and to revitalize public housing.

Buyer’s assistance

Biden is proposing a program that would give first-time homebuyers an “advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000.”

Sanders wants to “substantially expand federal programs to make sure that Americans throughout the country have the ability to buy their first home.” He specifically wants to use a total of $8 billion from multiple government agencies to create a first-time homebuyer assistance program.

Sen. Bernie Sanders in Burlington, Vermont, on March 4. Credit: Alex Wong and Getty Images


Biden wants to create a “renters tax credit.” The program would aim “to reduce rent and utilities to 30 percent of income for low-income individuals and families who may make too much money to qualify for a Section 8 voucher but still struggle to pay their rent.” He would also fix funding shortfalls for the Section 8 voucher program, which provides assistance to lower income Americans.

Biden also wants to include protections against eviction in a proposed “Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights,” and proposes a program to provide renters with legal assistance when facing eviction.

Sanders comes out strongly in favor of rent control in his proposal. He calls for the establishment of “a national rent control standard,” and proposes a cap of 3 percent or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index (whichever is higher). States and cities would have the option of imposing even more stringent restrictions.

Additionally, Sanders wants to enact regulations that would make evictions more difficult, and believes that states should not be allowed to make laws limiting rent control.

Like Biden, Sanders would also increase funding for the Section 8 program.

Joe Biden in Dallas, Texas on March 2. Credit: Ron Jenkins and Getty Images

Discrimination and equal housing

Biden says in his proposal that he will eliminate redlining and exclusionary zoning — both practices that have historically been used to keep minorities out of certain neighborhoods. He would do this by requiring communities that receive certain types of federal funds to come up with a plan to fight discrimination.

Biden also calls for holding financial institutions accountable for discriminatory lending practices, reversing Trump administration policies regarding fair housing rules, and establishing a national standard for appraisals to address home valuations coming out lower in minority communities.

“Because home ownership is how many families save and build wealth, these racial disparities in home ownership contribute to the racial wealth gap,” Biden’s proposal argues. “It is far past time to put an end to systemic housing discrimination and other contributors to this disparity.”

Sanders explains in his proposal that he wants to “combat gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation, and speculation.” He specifically says that states should not be allowed to ban “inclusionary zoning rules that require developers to set aside affordable housing on their projects.”

Sanders would also tie federal housing funding to inclusionary zoning practices, would impose a 25 percent “house flipping tax,” and a 2 percent “empty homes” tax.

“We must strengthen and expand the Fair Housing Act and increase enforcement to eliminate housing discrimination which is still pervasive throughout the United States,” Sanders proposal also states.

Sanders in Essex Junction, Vermont, on March 03. Credit: Chip Somodevilla and Getty Images

Financial institutions

Biden touts his work during the Obama administration, which his proposal states “held major national financial institutions accountable for discriminatory lending practices.” Biden argues that the Trump administration has tried to “gut” regulations, and vows to reverse that trend.

Sanders wants to “end the mass sale of mortgages to Wall Street vulture funds.” He also proposes investigating and regulating “the practices of large rental housing investors and owners,” and banning what he describes as predatory “contract for deed” transactions.

Sanders also wants to create a commission to help people who are still underwater on their mortgages as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession.

Biden addresses a crowd in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on Feb. 28. Credit: Sean Rayford and Getty Images

Climate Change

Biden promises in his proposal to “set a target of reducing the carbon footprint of the U.S. building stock 50 percent by 2035.” The proposal also focuses on transportation, noting that Biden will use federal money to support “smart transit,” reduce congestion and fight sprawl.

He ultimately hopes to “offer tens of millions of Americans new transportation options.”

Sanders proposes decarbonizing housing, among other things, by weatherizing and electrifying homes. Such projects would be supported with federal grant programs.

He also promises in his proposal to pass the Green New Deal, which aims to “achieve 100 percent sustainable energy for electricity and a fully decarbonized building sector by no later than 2030.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar introduces Sanders during a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 02. Credit: Chip Somodevilla and Getty Images


Biden says in his proposal that he will create a federal homelessness task force on his first day in office. The goal of the task force will be to come up with a “national strategy for making housing a right for all.” He also wants to set aside emergency funding for the issue.

Sanders proposes spending more than $26 billion on homeless assistance grants, which would be used to build permanent supportive housing. He also wants to provide $500 million to support local communities’ outreach programs.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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