With more than 40 million Americans living in what is described as “cost burdened households,” the positions of the two major presidential candidates in reference to housing policies has emerged as a particularly significant issue this year.
Maurie Backman, finance journalist writing for the site Motley Fool, notes that nearly half of renters today spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing, while “over 20% spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities.”
In response, both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have issued a series of positions addressing the issue, but from different perspectives.
The Democratic nominee is promoting what he calls his First Down Payment Tax Credit, which would make available a $15,000 tax credit that could be applied towards the purchase of a home. Biden additionally wants to use a tax credit to reduce rent and utility costs by nearly a third for low income earners.
Biden has also proposed an “Affordable Housing Fund” of up to $100 billion, with two-thirds of that money providing incentives to develop and rehabilitate low-cost housing.
Biden is additionally proposing funding for Section 8 housing vouchers, with aid going directly to some 17 million low-income families, and has pushed for a Homeowner and Rental Bill of Rights making it illegal for apartment owners to discriminate against renters receiving federal benefits.
The former vice president also wants to bring back the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule as implemented during the Obama Administration. That rule required any locality receiving federal housing funds to put in place specific plans to eliminate housing discrimination.
States receiving Community Development Block Grants would also be required, in a Biden Administration, to incorporate inclusionary zoning into their planning.
The Trump campaign is pointing to the President’s successful effort to get rid of that very same Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, which he said was too burdensome.
In its place, the President has created an initiative called Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice, requiring entities receiving federal housing funds to verify that they offer housing that is affordable and discrimination-free; as well as an executive order designed to remove barriers to new housing construction.
In signing the Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing Development order, Trump said that 25% of the cost of a new home is the result of regulations, a figure that increases to 42% for new multifamily projects.
Trump has specifically pointed to zoning controls, maximum density rules, and energy efficiency standards as examples of barriers to increased housing construction.
The Trump campaign also points to the creation of Opportunity Zones, which were a part of the President’s sweeping 2017 tax reform legislation. As designed, those zones incentivize housing and business development in low incomes areas across the country.
By Garry Boulard
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