Housing the Political Agenda

It's official, at least it is to you. In order to get housing on the agenda this election cycle, we have to demand our candidates to take a stand.

It's not hard—in fact, it's quite easy—to share Rooflines blogger Greg Rosenberg's incredulity at how housing is not part of the political narrative, or that there's nary a mention of housing in the “issues” areas of both the Obama and Romney campaign Web sites. After all, for most Americans, housing is a marquee issue all of the time, let alone during an election cycle.

On top of the millions of Americans who are underwater, foreclosed upon, homeless, or are acutely aware of the very real threat of these things, housing is in the news constantly. We had the $25 billion attorneys general foreclosure settlement that seeks to right wrongful foreclosures; we have, according to Nancy Wilberg of the National Council of La Raza, 3.4 million borrowers 90 days or more late on their mortgage payments or are in foreclosure—that's 8 percent of all borrowers. More, 10.7 million homeowners, roughly 22 percent of all mortgages, are underwater.

We have the long, loud drumbeat of respected voices in the housing, community development, and economic fields decrying the FHFA's continually brushing off principal reduction.

So, the results from last week's Shelterforce survey, Can housing advocates get the housing crisis on the radar screen this election cycle?, only offer further proof that “market forces” in political campaigns often don't reflect the demand of the constiuency. In order to get housing on the political agenda in 2012, you said, we're going to have to work for it.

Fortunately, this is something you all know how to do.
In response to our question, you said:

“We have to demand it in every way we can think of! Remind them of what should be painfully obvious: that housing is inextricably linked to the entire fabric of the economy, and as the housing market strengthens again, so will the jobs market.” —Bethany, Milwaukee

“It will be easy to get homeownership on the political agenda. Not so for rental housing.” —Michael, Washington, DC

“Housing advocates need to put housing crisis on their own radar screen first, stay focused, demand and make housing crisis to be the campaign platform every day until the election day. Call for criminal prosecution. The only way and potential chance to reset the system is demanding and actually putting bank top executives in jail.”

“We have to start local/regional, build the grassroots base to put the pressure on.”

As Rosenberg noted in his post:

Is there something—anything—that affordable housing advocates can do to put the housing crisis on the radar screen for this campaign season?  Because if we don’t make it happen, housing is going to be a non-issue in this campaign.

Well, is there? What do you think?

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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