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Point of View: Our Homes, Our Votes 2020 – by Diane Yentel, NLIHC President and CEO

The 2020 presidential campaigns offer an opportunity unlike any housing advocates have seen before. The primary season is already in full swing with several Democrats, including many who are strong and vocal supporters of affordable homes, running for their party’s nomination. Several candidates have a long history of supporting affordable homes and have introduced major affordable housing proposals. For the first time in recent memory, affordable housing is a topic on the presidential campaign trail. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has announced her intention to run for president. Last year, she introduced the “American Housing and Economic Mobility (AHEM) Act,” a bold and comprehensive bill to end the housing crisis. NLIHC worked closely with Senator Warren on developing the bill, which directly addresses the underlying cause of the affordable housing crisis – the severe shortage of affordable rental homes for people with the lowest incomes – through a robust $445 billion investment over ten years in the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF). Her proposal would also expand Fair Housing Act protections, boost funding for rural and tribal housing, impose stronger requirements on banks and lenders, and encourage inclusionary zoning. Senator Warren has already made affordable housing a topic in recent campaign speaking engagements in Iowa and New Hampshire. For more details on the AHEM Act, see NLIHC’s factsheet.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced his bid for the presidency on February 1. Last year, NLIHC worked with Senator Booker on the introduction of his “Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act,” which would provide a refundable tax credit to individuals who spend more than 30% of their incomes on rent. The proposal also encourages inclusionary zoning to increase the supply of affordable housing and to reduce housing discrimination based on race and income.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced on January 21 her intention to run for president. In the summer of 2018, NLIHC worked with Senator Harris on the introduction of her “Rent Relief Act,” which aims to reduce rent burdens on low-income renters by creating a refundable tax credit for individuals who live in rental housing and who pay more than 30% of their incomes on rent and utilities. Like Senator Booker’s bill, this proposal would reduce housing cost burdens on struggling low-income renters and provide individuals and families additional money they can spend on healthcare, education, childcare, and other needs. For more information on Senator Harris’s and Booker’s renters’ tax credit proposals, see NLIHC’s factsheet.

In addition to Senators Warren, Booker, and Harris, the presidential primary field also includes former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who announced his candidacy on January 12. As HUD secretary, Castro led the launch of the national Housing Trust Fund and published the historic Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. Castro’s familiarity with and strong support for affordable housing programs means another vocal housing proponent will be on the campaign trail. We expect other candidates to also introduce major housing legislation in the Senate in the coming months.

With so many housing champions running for president, we have a tremendous opportunity to put affordable housing solutions front and center in national political conversations. Over the course of the campaigns, NLIHC’s nonpartisan Our Homes, Our Votes project will continue to engage with all presidential candidates to elevate and amplify affordable housing solutions – through housing forums in key primary states, voter engagement with low-income renters, and more. We will analyze candidates’ housing proposals for their impact on the lowest-income people and work to have robust housing planks included in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms. And we will continue to provide our members and partners with concrete tips for nonpartisan voter registration, engagement, and mobilization.

In the coming months we’ll share regular updates and ways for you to get involved in Our Homes, Our Votes 2020 - because housing is built with ballots!

Thanks, as always, for your commitment and good work.

Diane