Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota became the fifth Democratic candidate for president to release a concrete housing plan on Thursday. It addresses a wide range of issues related to the affordable housing crisis, including housing discrimination, federal housing subsidies, local zoning laws, and homeownership.
But while sweeping in scope, it’s scant on details. The plan mentions but doesn’t give specific dollar amounts for additional investments in existing federal programs, including Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), housing vouchers, rural housing assistance grants, aid to people with disabilities and people with AIDS, homeless assistant grants, and down payment assistance for homeowners.
Klobuchar says she’ll pay for these programs by raising the capital gains tax rate to the income tax rate for households making more than $400,000, and by raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.
“This latest housing proposal from Senator Klobuchar is another example of presidential candidates and members of Congress increasingly willing not just to work around the edges of the housing crisis, but instead to introduce and advance bold, ambitious solutions to tackle it head-on,” the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in a statement. “The size and scope of these housing proposals are unlike anything we have seen in generations.”
Perhaps the biggest proposal in Klobuchar’s plan is to expand the Housing Choice Voucher Program—which covers rent in excess of 30 percent of the voucher holder’s income—to include all qualifying households with children. Currently, only about a quarter of qualifying households actually receive vouchers because Congress makes specific dollar allocations to the program that ultimately underfund it. This is a sweeping proposal that would make housing an entitlement for low-income families with children.
The plan includes a nod to the growing Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) movement, which seeks to eliminate single-family zoning to increase the housing supply. Klobuchar says she will “prioritize” local governments that reform their zoning laws when allocating federal housing and infrastructure grants, but doesn’t state which ones. Senator Cory Booker’s plan ties zoning reform to Community Development Block Grants and a number of federal transportation funds, although it’s unclear whether this would actually lead to local zoning reform.
Klobuchar’s plan shares with other candidates’ plans a proposal to protect renters from discrimination. She says she would create a new federal grant program to provide legal assistant to people facing eviction. She wants to prevent landlords from discriminating against people using housing vouchers and disability benefits, and keep landlords from blacklisting renters who have an eviction history. She would also reinstate the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, an Obama-era regulation that provides tools and data to local governments so they can present a nonbinding plan for addressing barriers to fair housing. (Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson successfully suspended the rule last year.)
Among Klobuchar’s other proposals are to use Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to provide mortgage liquidity in rural housing markets and revamp credit evaluation criteria to include phone bills, utilities, and rent payments, giving low-income renters more options for building credit, and thus a better shot at qualifying for mortgages.