The housing crisis is worsening and the rent’s too damn high. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has a solution: the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2018.
The bill, which will be introduced to the senate floor on Wednesday, calls for a $450 billion investment over the next 10 years to build and preserve affordable rental homes; expands the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination on sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, and income source; incentivizes local jurisdictions to revisit zoning and regulations that impede new housing construction; provides $2 billion funding to create 200,000 homes on Native American tribal land; expands USDA Rural Housing programs to create 380,000 affordable rental homes and to help 17,000 families become homeowners; and attempts to close the racial wealth gap by providing down payments to first-time homebuyers in formerly redlined neighborhoods or segregated areas.
To finance the bill, Sen. Warren is calling for estate tax rates to return to levels at the end of the Bush Administration and progressive taxes that will impact only the wealthiest 10,000 earners in the country.
Sen. Warren’s office commissioned an independent study of its bill from the nonpartisan consulting firm Moody’s, which concluded that “the bill would build or rehabilitate more than 3 million units over the next decade and fully close the current gap between housing demand and supply, create 1.5 million new jobs at its peak impact, bring down rents for lower-income and middle-class families by 10 percent—saving families an average of $100 per month—and produce no long-term deficit impact.”
The Atlantic called the proposed legislation, “perhaps the most far-reaching assault on housing segregation since the 1968 Fair Housing Act.”
The housing crisis is shaping up to be a defining issue of the 2020 presidential election. Along with Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ)—who have each proposed national rent-relief legislation—Sen. Warren has been discussed as a front funner for the Democratic nomination. (None have formally declared intent to run.) Warren’s proposed legislation is a window into how she might aggressively approach affordability, equity, discrimination, Wall Street regulations, and tax reform as president.
Sen. Warren’s bill is supported by the National Low Income Housing Coalition; Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer-winning book Evicted; the National Alliance to End Homelessness; the National Center for Transgender Equity; the National Housing Law Project; the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund; the National Rural Housing Coalition; and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
“The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2018 is a prime example of Senator Warren’s commitment to helping families who struggle to pay rent and make ends meet,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a news release. “The proposal expands investments in proven solutions—like the National Housing Trust Fund—at the scale necessary to help millions of the lowest income families who today face impossible choices between paying rent and putting food on the table, buying medication, or saving for a rainy day. Congress should quickly enact this ambitious bill to help end homelessness and housing poverty once and for all.”