Creating a Fair & Affordable America: END OUR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS CRISIS
Owning a home has long been a fundamental element of the American Dream. Still, hundreds of thousands of Americans are unable to afford shelter for themselves and their families. Millions of Americans are left struggling to make ends meet as they face exorbitant housing costs. Young people are left wondering if they will ever achieve the same economic freedom as their parents by buying a home.
Simply put – too many Americans are without a home, and we must incentivize the building of more affordable housing units to end our homelessness crisis.
As a father and community member, I know how important homes are to the very fabric of our society. I believe that every American deserves access to affordable housing, and I’m committed to building 7 million more homes, expanding renter protections, ending predatory housing investing, and focusing on sustainable housing to withstand the coming climate crisis.
In January 2022, the number of people in the US experiencing homelessness reached a record high at 582,462 people documented without shelter. Of those, 28% were people living in families with children, 22% experienced chronic homelessness, and 6% were veterans.
Beyond homelessness, even those who have access to housing are struggling. In 2019, over 3.7 million Americans lived in doubled-up housing, or housing that encompasses multiple households due to economic hardship or housing loss. In 2021, 19 million US renter households were considered cost-burdened, meaning they spent more than 30% of their income on housing, 7.1 million of whom were severely cost-burdened, spending more than 50% of their income on housing.
The housing market in America has long been plagued by housing shortages. For at least the past 40 years, the supply of housing has not kept up with the demand, leaving us in a huge housing deficit. Estimates range from needing around 3.2 million to 6.5 million more homes to meet the demands of the market.
The deficit is made all the more complicated by a number of external factors. Founded in 2008, Airbnb and companies like it created a secondary market for short-term housing rentals, taking millions of homes off of the long-term housing market and causing a gradual creep in housing prices in desirable areas. Even more pervasive than Airbnb, private equity companies and other long-term capital investment groups have contributed to the artificial inflation of housing prices by purchasing up to 70% of homes in some ZIP codes, motivated by tax breaks and a general belief that housing investments will generally increase in value.
Finally, even as some builders work to keep up with the demand, they are limited by antiquated and racially motivated zoning laws that prevent us from building the housing we so sorely need. In 1917, the Supreme Court ended explicit racial segregation in housing zoning, pushing municipalities to seek alternative means to enshrine segregation in neighborhoods. Single-family zoning laws helped to prevent the construction of affordable, multi-family housing in cities looking to maintain neighborhoods along racial lines. Now, these laws prevent builders from meeting demands in areas that need more affordable housing and continue to entrench racial and socioeconomic divides.
Despite all of these difficulties creating an impossible market, 94% of Americans still believe that owning a home is a core part of the American Dream. A house isn’t just an investment: it’s the place you raise your family; it’s a space where you can fully express yourself; it’s a source of stability and access to a community; and of course, it provides shelter and warmth. As a father and community member in my hometown in Minnesota, I believe that every American should have access to affordable housing – it’s the American Dream.
As President, I would tackle America’s affordable housing problem head-on by working with the private sector to build 7 million new homes.
To accomplish this, I will focus on both expanding and better supporting existing programs as well as collaborating more directly with the private sector to lean into innovations already happening in the housing market.
Within government programming, I would work with Congress to increase funding to the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) within HUD to help non-profits who work in affordable housing build more homes. Another program of focus would be the National Housing Trust Fund which works to build and maintain affordable housing across the country.
Additionally, I’d work to expand subsidies and loan opportunities for builders who focus on middle- and low-income housing especially if they provide modular or prefabricated housing. The average home takes months to build, but modular housing companies can construct modern, efficient homes in 90 days, drastically reducing the carbon footprint of building a home and getting more units on the market faster.
But it’s not just building new houses, it’s also about taking a look at the demand side economics of the housing market. Housing is seen as an investment – not just for homeowners – if you have a retirement fund, it likely invests in housing. Private equity and Wall Street have been buying into the housing market for decades. Airbnb has created new incentives for individuals who can afford it to buy homes in high-demand tourist areas and list the housing as short-term rentals. As long as demand is up, it doesn’t matter how many units of housing we supply, unless we restrict how those properties can be allocated. I would support measures like the Stop Predatory Investing Act that work to curb the gobbling up of housing by private investors.
Reimagining the Role of State and Local Governments
One of the most substantial barriers to building more homes originates at the local level, making state and local incentives critical. Already, some regions are beginning to enact zoning reform that can be used as a model for other municipalities.
A district over from my own in Minnesota, the city of Minneapolis adopted a few important pieces of legislation that helped to spark growth in their affordable housing market and make them the first city in the US to fall below the inflation target from the Federal Reserve this past year.
In 2015, they passed a law that changed parking requirements to 50% less than previous levels for large residential buildings, helping to broaden where developers could build. In 2018, the city took things a step further and eliminated single-family zoning, while also investing $320 million in rental assistance and subsidies. This completely revolutionized their housing development market, and while there may be a need to investigate the impact this has on the environment in the region, this serves as a great model for how zoning reform can completely revolutionize the housing market.
As President, I would coordinate with HUD to encourage municipalities to enact zoning reform through financial incentives, and would additionally provide money to invest in rental assistance and subsidies as the city of Minneapolis did.
Building Sustainable Housing with the Climate in Mind
The housing that we build also needs to take into account the realities of our changing climate. As homeowners’ insurance rates skyrocket in some areas, and as even more insurance companies withdraw from markets in California, Florida, and Louisiana, we can’t ignore the impact of the climate crisis on housing.
As President, I would bolster private market incentives established in the Inflation Reduction Act to further move our already-built homes and all new-construction homes towards reliance on renewable energy in part by ensuring that all homes operate off of electricity, decreasing our dependence on oil and natural gas.
I would additionally offer incentives to improve the home building process to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry. By pivoting towards modular homebuilding where possible, developers can construct multiple homes in factories and eliminate vast amounts of carbon emissions generated through the typical on-site home construction. Additional opportunities exist in exploring 3D printing homes to limit the consumption of materials and further reduce the environmental impact of the supply chain.
Finally, in order to ensure that Americans can rely on their homes in a shifting climate, I would work to restrict the development of new builds in the areas most prone to natural disasters, and would additionally encourage local governments to update building codes in those areas. There is another opportunity here to engage with new technologies to best help American consumers by using AI to analyze the risks associated with an area, removing some of the burden from state and local governments.
Expanding & Improving our Infrastructure
Increasing housing doesn’t help anyone if it’s not in areas that allow people to have access to their work as well as the goods and services that they need. As we expand housing, it’s additionally critical to think about how we improve access to affordable transportation. Our nation’s public transportation system is critical both to improving our carbon footprint and expanding our affordable housing options.
As President, I would work with Congress to provide additional federal funding for public bus and train systems and continue the focus on expanding Amtrak high-speed corridors beyond the northeast.
Increased Access to Fair & Affordable Financing
Beyond expanding the supply of housing, I believe that we also need to address the lack of financing available to Americans, especially first-time home buyers.
The housing lending market has still not recovered from the Great Recession, which keeps many otherwise eligible buyers out of the market. I would work to have government agencies enable more small-balance mortgages, especially those under $100,000 by reducing fees and encouraging more flexibility in underwriting. Policies to broaden lending opportunities are additionally critical to the Black community who have historically been barred from the loans they need to purchase homes. My administration would put an emphasis on ensuring that marginalized communities in particular had access to the loans they need.
Finally, I would work to expand funding for community land trusts which provide low-cost housing options for purchase so long as homeowners agree to sell the homes back to the trust at restricted prices. This limits investment opportunities but helps to provide a consistent supply of affordable housing.
Providing Support to Renters Who Need It
Increasing the affordable housing supply also means expanding and improving the availability of rental housing and in particular, subsidized rental housing. Currently, only one in four households that qualify for assistance ends up actually benefiting from it – a problem that can be resolved by expanding and reforming government programs like Section 8 Housing. I would focus on expanding what housing qualifies as public housing as we focus on building more housing.
Finally, I would work to codify rental protections so that renters have access to more consumer protections through things like right to counsel and just cause evictions. Additionally, I would place limits on application fees to further lower the cost burden of trying to obtain new housing.
Prioritizing Mental Health and Disability Support & Treatment
Too often, people with disabilities, particularly those who have mental health disabilities are housing insecure, spending too much on their rents, or experiencing homelessness. In order to ensure that my policies are raising the foundation for all Americans, I would make accessibility part of federal funding considerations.
Additionally, I would create more addiction and mental healthcare support through my Medicare for All plan which you can read about here.
Ensuring No Veterans Experience Homelessness
In January of 2023, there were 35,000 veterans experiencing homelessness, about 30% of whom have chronic patterns of homelessness. As a Gold Star son, I cannot fathom how a country can allow those who risked everything for its defense to spend a single night without shelter.
While great progress has been made through temporary and permanent housing programs provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, there is still more that can and must be done.
In addition to providing better mental health and disability care services for all Americans, and veterans in particular, I would commit to providing even more funding for the above programs which reduced the number of veterans experiencing homelessness by 55% from 2010 to 2022.
Here are the bills I’ve already sponsored in Congress, so you know where I stand:
Wrote the FHA Loan Affordability Act, a bill to lower the cost of homes for Americans with FHA mortgages by eliminating the requirement they pay mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan. This will help low- and middle-income, first-time, and minority homebuyers, who are more likely to take out federal home loans.
Sponsored the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, a bill to increase Affordable Housing Credit allocations by 50% and enact a minimum 4% rate. This would help ensure the Housing Credit better serves hard-to-reach communities and would make it a more effective tool for preserving America's existing affordable housing inventory.
Sponsored the Fair and Equal Housing Act, a bill to extend the protections of the Fair Housing Act to people suffering discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Sponsored the Affordable Housing and Area Median Income Fairness Act, a bill to reauthorize the Community Development Block Grant and similar affordable housing programs through FY2032, and goes further by requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assess alternative methods of calculating area median income (i.e., any metric used to refer to the median income level for a given area or jurisdiction for purposes of any program administered by HUD) and use alternative metrics in order to make housing more affordable for low-income families.
Sponsored the Mental Health Infrastructure Act, the Mental Health Justice Act, and the 9-8-8 Implementation Act
Voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
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