How would Democratic candidates fix the housing and homelessness crises?


The surge in homelessness in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other West Coast cities has troubled many Americans as rents have risen further out of reach for those with the least. In California, where the party’s presidential primary takes place March 3, homelessness has become a top concern for many voters.

Yet most of the Democrats running for president rarely mention the housing crisisthat has struck hardest in regions with a high cost of living.

Some candidates have released bold and costly plans to increase access to low-cost housing. Others, at least so far, have promised little or nothing. Here are the proposals from the eight major Democratic presidential candidates:

Former Vice President Joe Biden has not released any policy plans for housing or homelessness. His criminal justice proposals include a goal of ensuring housing for all formerly incarcerated individuals upon release from prison. His climate change agenda includes support for local rules that allow denser and more affordable housing near public transit.

“In any housing that is built, you should make sure we’re building green housing,” Biden told Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. “Any new building that is built should be built green, so that they do not let heat or air conditioning escape, to save hundreds of millions of barrels of oil over time.”

During his 12 years as New York’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg took credit for financing the construction or preservation of 175,000 units of affordable housing. Nonetheless, he drew criticism from advocates for the poor for the enduring scarcity of housing for lower-income New Yorkers and the steady deterioration of public housing projects.

His push to require homeless New Yorkers to prove they had nowhere else to go before being admitted to a shelter sparked a lawsuit by the City Council. A court struck down the policy.

In his run for president, Bloomberg has taken a more liberal approach. He has proposed guaranteeing federal rent subsidies for the millions of Americans whose income is low enough to qualify, eliminating the long waiting lists. Bloomberg would also expand federal grants to cities with strong protections against eviction.

Bloomberg has pledged to cut homelessness by 50% in four years and increase federal spending on anti-homelessness programs by $3 billion. He would also reward localities where new affordable housing is built near good schools, public transit lines and job opportunities.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has vowed to spend more than $150 billion to create 1.4 million units of affordable housing. He has also proposed expanding a tax credit for developers, which he says will spur construction of 550,000 more affordable units. Buttigieg has pledged an additional $4 billion to help up to 1 million households buy a home for the first time.

To reduce and prevent homelessness, Buttigieg would spend $4 billion on programs such as short-term housing and social services. He has promised $500 million to end youth homelessness and an unspecified amount to end veteran homelessness.

Buttigieg has proposed a $3-billion emergency fund to help cities with severe struggles sheltering the homeless. He would also spend $1 billion on a program to prevent people in prison from winding up homeless upon release.

Buttigieg plans to put an unspecified amount of money into an expansion of apprenticeships to train people for jobs in the construction industry. His housing agenda also includes $100 billion in spending on programs to remove lead paint and lead pipes from housing for low-income Americans.


U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has released no agenda on housing or homelessness. Her campaign did not respond to requests for her positions. Her website says of her position on “houselessness” that she is “a strong advocate for affordable housing and protections for the homeless.”

“Instead of wasting billions of dollars on regime-change wars, we can invest some of that Peace Dividend to end homelessness across America,” she has said on Twitter.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has vowed to spend more than $1 trillion on housing and poverty reduction.

She would make federal rent subsidies available to all Americans who are poor enough to qualify, clearing a waiting list of more than 4 million families. The average wait time would be cut to three months. Klobuchar wants to give an unspecified sum of money to states to provide temporary housing for those waiting for subsidies.

She also has proposed providing access to counsel for tenants facing eviction, barring landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their income and changing federal grant rules to give localities an incentive to lift zoning restrictions on housing construction. Klobuchar says she would spend at least $40 billion a year in the Housing Trust Fund to build and renovate homes for the poor.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ housing agenda is the most ambitiousand most expensive, with a cost of more than $2 trillion over 10 years.

He says he would spend $1.5 trillion on the National Housing Trust Fund to build or renovate affordable housing; $400 billion more to build 2 million units of housing for Americans of various incomes to encourage integration of communities; and $50 billion to enable 1 million families to purchase property that they co-own with other home buyers.

Sanders says he would spend $410 billion on new Section 8 rent subsidies for the poor, providing the vouchers to everyone who is eligible. He would also put $70 billion into public housing repairs and spend $2 billion to provide counsel for people facing foreclosure, eviction or loss of rent subsidies. He supports $500 million in spending on social services for the homeless. His plan would impose a cap on annual rent hikes of 3% or 1.5 times the consumer price index, whichever is higher.

“There is virtually no place in America where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a decent two-bedroom apartment,” Sanders said when he released his housing agenda in September. “At a time when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, this is unacceptable.”

The San Francisco billionaire has not released a detailed housing agenda,but has outlined his approach in public remarks. He has promised to build 3.5 million units of more affordable housing, spending $47 billion a year on construction and renovation projects. The former hedge fund manager has also vowed to remedy racial discrimination in housing by promoting home loans in neighborhoods where redlining has occurred.

Steyer would expand the Section 8 rent voucher program to cover all households whose income is low enough to qualify. He has also pledged $10 billion a year in grants to public-private partnerships that pursue innovative solutions to the housing crisis.

Steyer also wants to create a renter emergency fund to make one-time grants or loans to low-income families facing eviction. He would put $8 billion into programs that provide housing and social services to the homeless.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has called for spending $500 billion over 10 years to build or refurbish units that would be affordable to low-income families. States would qualify for the money only if they adopt Warren’s agenda on tenants’ rights, including a “just cause” standard for eviction and a right to lease renewal.

Warren also wants to set up a $4-billion emergency fund to build housing for middle-class renters in places with severe housing shortages. She also backs grants to help first-time home buyers make down payments in neighborhoods with a history of racial discrimination in housing.

Warren has called for blocking states from preempting local measures to protect tenants. She wants to establish a right to counsel for low-income tenants. To safeguard renters’ rights, she would set up a tenant protection bureau in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Warren would block federal grants to local police departments that arrest people for sleeping on the streets. She also plans to resume federal spending on construction of public housing.

“Everyone in America should have a decent, affordable and safe place to live,” Warren wrote in an online post about her housing agenda.

Article Date: 
Tuesday, February 18, 2020