Two Presidential Affordable Housing Platforms!

    “There’s still time to get the nation’s housing and urban crisis on the presidential campaign radar,” wrote Randy Shaw in his Feburary post “Why the Presidential Race Ignores Urban America.” I doubt at the time he had high hopes that it would happen. I didn't.

    But since then, at least the Democrats have stepped up, somewhat. Though they haven't made them central to their campaign, Clinton and Sanders have each released affordable housing platforms, and heading into today's New York state primary contest, each of them made visits to public housing in New York City.

    Hillary released a housing platform first, shortly after Shaw's post in February, in fact. Sanders released his this week, and described it in an op-ed in the Daily News. (Final word to the voters before a contested primary—on housing? Pinch me!)

    They have many similarities—both speak of downpayment assistance, pre-purchase counseling, credit score reform, and support for the Consumer Finance Protection Board and fair housing.

    Though their tones are similar, they differ in some of what they highlight as priorities as well.

    The Sanders platform makes specific reference to increasing funding for the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund (he introduced the bill creating the fund in 2001 in the House), and to seeking permanent affordability rather than limited affordability terms. (Not surprising when Sanders was involved in the creation of a community land trust as mayor of Burlington.) It also talks more specifically about the continuing fallout from the foreclosure crisis, calling for more foreclosure mitigation counseling and support for an improved HARP program for underwater homeowners. Sanders specifically mentions support for public housing, and increasing funding for housing choice vouchers, though with few specifics on either.

    Clinton's platform, meanwhile, specifically commits to increasing the Low IncomeHousing Tax Credit and supporting programs like Choice Neighborhoods to direct resources into “high-poverty neighborhoods,” and includes discussion of an anti-blight agenda. It promises to try to improve the mobility options of those with vouchers, and to “ease local barriers” through “land use strategies” that encourage development of rental housing near jobs. 

    After Clinton released her platform, Enterprise Community Partners noted that Clinton's platform hits many of their federal policy goals, with the notable exception of increasing federal rental assistance, which Sanders' platform does include.

    (Clinton also includes provisions on job creation and infrastructure spending under the same heading as housing, while Sanders has long had extensive proposals on those laid out separately, though he does note in his housing platform that a $15 minimum wage would be a blow against housing unaffordability.)

    Both platforms have many generalities and a few specifics—it's clear that neither candidate is a housing wonk, but that each one did devote staff time to trying to understand the issue well enough to make a serious plan on the issue. This could be seen as one of the bright spots in this campaign season.

    Maybe the creative efforts to raise the profile of these issues that we wrote about during the last election cycle have finally borne fruit? Or maybe the housing crisis has just gotten that bad? In any case, it's good to have candidates who are paying attention.

    (Photo credit: flickr, CC0 1.0)


    For more on the 2016 Election, click here.

    Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.


    1. As a person who works for a non-profit affordable housing builder, I am more than saddened that these 2 “only hopes” for a Democratic president have not broadened their understanding of the housing crisis in America. It is beyond comprehension that those in power are unaware of what is happening to the middle, lower-middle and lower income people in our country. Our last building had 42 one-bedroom units for low-income people, and over 2000 applications. It is the same everywhere and worse. I would like someone to compare the cost per day of the wars we are waging in other countries, to the cost per day the government is spending on the housing crisis in America.


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