Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has unveiled his plan to deal with one of the great problems facing working class Americans, access to affordable housing.
After a walking tour of Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, Sen. Sanders said, “This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. People should not be forced to live in dilapidated housing.”
The affordable housing crisis is a nationwide problem that is rarely discussed by policymakers. Sanders was touring an urban area, but the crisis impacts both urban and rural communities.
To combat the problem, Sen. Sanders has announced his detailed plan to expand affordable housing, which includes:
Expand the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Sen. Sanders is proud to have authored the original National Affordable Housing Trust Fund bill in the House of Representatives in 2001 that became law in 2008. This is the first new federal housing production program in almost three decades, and the first ever designed to build rental housing for extremely low-income households. As president, Sen. Sanders will fight to increase funding for the housing trust fund to at least $5 billion a year in order to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate at least 3.5 million affordable housing rental units over the next decade. Not only will this help address the affordable housing crisis, it will also create millions of good paying jobs in the process.
Raise the minimum wage. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a renter would need to earn a wage of $19.35 per hour in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in the U.S. One way to start closing the wage/rent gap is to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.
Reinvigorate federal housing production programs. Over the past decade, the federal programs that build affordable housing for families, for the elderly and for the disabled have been decimated. Nobody disagrees that we need to address the deficit, but it is absurd to balance the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. We must return to pre-2010 funding levels by ending sequestration and invest more, not less, in affordable housing.
Defend Fair Housing. The sordid history of housing discrimination is a stain on our collective conscious, and for fifty years the Fair Housing Act has provided critically important legal protection from discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or disability. And yet, Republicans have tried over and over again to defund efforts to affirmatively promote fair housing. We must push back, defend and strengthen the law, and make sure we never again tacitly condone housing discrimination.
Demand more from Affordable Housing Developers. Housing that is built with government subsidies should remain affordable much longer than the 10, 15 or 20 years typically required by federal housing programs. In my state of Vermont, we require affordable housing to remain affordable permanently. In my view, once we subsidize rental housing, we shouldn’t have to pay again and again simply to “preserve” it.
Sanders is not new to the topic of affordable housing.
Here is video of Sanders discussing affordable housing on the House floor in 2000:
Bernie Sanders deserves credit for not only speaking out about the problem but also delivering a detailed solution. Affordable and safe housing shouldn’t be a luxury for the people of the United States of America. The next president needs to take action on affordable housing, and Bernie Sanders is promising to make the issue a priority if he wins the White House.