Plan to Tackle America’s Housing Affordability Crisis

Every American should be able to afford a good home in a thriving community

A home is a platform for stability, good health, upward mobility, and opportunity in America. But for too many families, owning a home is out of reach, and the high cost of paying rent has pushed them to a breaking point. Our nation faces a shortage of over 7.2 million affordable homes available to low-income renters. Nearly 40 million middle- and lower-income households are “cost-burdened,” spending more than 30% of their income on rent or a mortgage, including 18 million households that pay more than half of their income on housing. The lack of available affordable homes, particularly within relatively close proximity to employment, puts homeownership out of reach for families struggling to pay for the high costs of health care, child care, and student debt. 

Despite this shortage, federal housing support heavily subsidizes high-income households at the expense of working families and vulnerable populations. We need to overhaul our federal housing policy so that every American can afford a stable home in a thriving community. 

In addition to building more affordable housing, we must consider the connection between transportation costs and housing. It’s not enough to simply build or refurbish millions of affordable units in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty or in places far away from high-quality schools and good-paying jobs. It is imperative that we lower the full cost of living in good homes in thriving communities to ensure that people are able to afford a decent life.

To achieve these goals, the Bennet Administration will:

  • Build more affordable housing near good jobs, by directly supporting the building, preservation, and refurbishment of nearly 4 million units of affordable housing for middle-class workers, seniors, and low-income families, while creating incentives for communities to build and preserve millions more to fully eliminate the existing shortage of 7.2 million affordable rental homes;
  • Help middle-class and working families afford a home, whether renting or for purchase; and,
  • Reform federal housing tax incentives that disproportionately favor the wealthy and often discourage affordability in communities with good schools and job opportunities.

Build More Affordable Housing Near Good Jobs 

A severe shortage of affordable homes is undermining economic mobility, pushing working families away from good jobs and seniors away from their families and services. America has an existing shortage of 7.2 million affordable homes. We will fully eliminate that housing gap with a direct investment in the creation, preservation, or refurbishment of nearly 4 million homes along with incentives that will push communities to eliminate exclusionary zoning laws that block the building of affordable homes in thriving neighborhoods.

The Bennet Administration will launch a nationwide public-private initiative to increase the supply of high-quality, affordable homes near good jobs, and ensure we are serving the needs of our most vulnerable populations including families with children, seniors, people with disabilities, and people who are homeless. That requires both building millions of new, affordable units in partnership with state and local governments, nonprofits, and the private sector, but also ensuring that existing affordable units do not become unaffordable or deteriorate to a point where they are no longer quality places to live.

  • Support Transit-Oriented Development: Housing costs are not confined to paying the rent or mortgage and utilities. A family’s transportation costs can also be heavily influenced by where a home is located, adding an additional and unavoidable cost burden that isn’t included in the price of the home. That’s why the Bennet Administration will address the crucial link between housing and transportation. We cannot be satisfied if the only affordable homes for tens of millions of Americans are in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, few job opportunities, and inadequate schools, or in places that require long and expensive commutes to get to work. We need to expand investments in major mass-transit projects like bus-rapid transit or commuter rail that connect people to good jobs, not projects that hoard opportunity for high-income neighborhoods. The Bennet Administration will require that competitive federal transportation investments go to communities that promote inclusive, affordable housing supply, including those that are measurably increasing affordable housing supply near existing transit hubs. We will triple the funding for competitive and innovative transportation funding through the BUILD (formerly TIGER) program — increasing annual funding to $4.5 billion — and strengthen the requirements for communities to develop in an inclusionary manner. Grants through the BUILD and New Starts programs would be directed exclusively to communities that allow for density near rail transit, bus hubs, and in job-rich areas. Communities that have repeatedly blocked the development of affordable, multi-family housing would be declared ineligible for additional federal support through these programs. A community that wants competitive federal transit or transportation dollars like BUILD and New Starts must allow the building of affordable apartments and multi-family housing units near train stops and bus hubs, rather than vast surface parking lots and will have to stop prohibiting multi-family units from being built in job-rich areas with good schools. As we expand affordable housing in high-opportunity areas, we will also encourage communities to help people with long-standing roots in those places stay in their homes.
  • Reduce Exclusionary Housing Policy that Stifles Opportunity and Segregates Communities: Too often, excessively restrictive zoning laws in places with good jobs, good schools, and vibrant economies actively exclude a large share of the population, especially people of color, from opportunity. Brutal commutes increase costs, pollution, and keep workers from their families. The Bennet Administration will create a one-time $10 billion competitive grant program for local governments, councils of governments, or state governments that reduce barriers restricting affordable housing in high-opportunity areas and increase the number of affordable units. These grants will be designed to ensure that a greater share of residents have access to the benefits of a growing economy. This will encourage local governments to take steps such as eliminating unnecessary parking requirements for new developments; enacting density bonuses and affordability requirements; desegregating communities and school districts by, for example, redrawing school attendance zones; expanding legal representation for low-income tenants through local right-to-counsel initiatives; and introducing inclusionary zoning. Communities will also be rewarded for plans that identify public property available for affordable housing, and encourage the creative use of these assets for affordable housing for people who are homeless; public employees including firefighters, police officers, and teachers; seniors and people with disabilities; low-income families; and for community land trusts that provide for permanently affordable real estate for all of these groups. The funds would be allocated to encourage cooperation across jurisdictions and create a regional approach to meeting affordable housing needs for the local workforce, the middle class, and those striving toward it. For example, the grant funds would encourage cooperation driven by regional “housing budgets” that allocate the need for creating or sustaining affordable units across jurisdictions in a region, rather than saddling one community with all of the burden of creating affordable units, while others pursue anti-growth or anti-affordability strategies.
  • Increase Affordable Housing Supply: The federal government must shift housing subsidies away from the richest 10% of Americans and instead give a boost to the 9 out of 10 Americans who haven’t seen a decent pay raise in the last 40 years. The Bennet Administration will complement incentives to reduce barriers to building and sustaining affordable housing with major investments in state, local, and private development of affordable housing by expanding the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), the Housing Trust Fund, and the Capital Magnet Fund.

    • Expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC): The Bennet Administration will reform LIHTC by increasing allocations for states by 50%, adjusting the minimum credit rate, increasing incentives to target vulnerable communities, preventing NIMBYism from blocking affordable housing, and increasing housing in areas near good jobs,  good schools, and transit. We will prioritize developments that provide for permanent affordability so that investments made in affordable housing by the federal government today will remain affordable for generations. This will create an estimated 550,000 additional, affordable units over the next decade.
    • Increase Affordable Housing by Funding the Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund: The undersupply of affordable housing pits working people against one another. That competition forces working families to often pay huge shares of their income on rent. The Bennet Administration will provide $400 billion in funding to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and $30 billion to the Capital Magnet Fund (CMF) over the next 10 years. These programs partner with state and local governments as well as private entities to develop affordable housing for particularly vulnerable people, including those who are disabled, seniors, and families with children. They also preserve existing affordable and public housing units, which is significantly more cost-efficient than creating new units. These investments would create nearly 3 million units over the next 10 years that are affordable for the most vulnerable households — so-called “deeply affordable” units — easing the tremendous pressure that renters face. Creating millions of new deeply affordable homes will also lessen competition and price hikes that are saddling low- and moderate-income working families with severe rent burdens.
    • Launch Pilot Grants for Local and Regional Housing Budgets: When creating land-use regulations, neighborhoods, cities, and even states often have terrible incentives. Communities end up in a race to the bottom — those who build the least affordable housing “win” by shifting the burden to a neighboring community. The Bennet Administration will create a $500 million pilot program to incentivize the creation of “housing budgets.” These regional, cross-jurisdictional partnerships that set binding targets to increase housing supply, promote inclusionary development, and allocate the supply fairly across communities would receive funding to support implementation and tracking of those budgets and to help finance the development of affordable units in their communities.
    • Provide Rural and Small Town Housing Support: No two small towns are exactly alike: Where one town needs affordable housing to attract teachers, its neighbor might need to build housing for seniors. Rural areas and small towns face unique housing needs that require flexible solutions. Rural renters are particularly vulnerable, with nearly one in four paying more than half their income on rent.  Rural renters are also more than twice as likely to live in poverty than rural homeowners. And many seniors and disabled people in rural areas face a lack of affordable transportation options or accessible homes. The Bennet Administration will support flexible affordable housing solutions in rural areas by increasing funding for the USDA’s multi-family rental housing portfolio, including preservation incentives and loan assistance for new construction, to $370 million per year to preserve 300,000 units and create 80,000 new units over the next decade.
  • Support Main Street Revitalization: The Bennet Administration will provide high-poverty urban communities, as well as small towns and rural communities who have suffered from disinvestment with $20 billion over 10 years for Main Street revitalization projects. This flexible funding can be paired with other tools, like low-cost multi-family housing financing and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to refurbish old buildings and create new, affordable housing to revitalize downtowns across America.
  • Create a Radically Low-Cost Housing Innovation Fund: We will create a $100 million national demonstration grant competition for home-builders to rethink housing, with the goal of developing new models that bring down the cost per square foot or total cost per unit — in urban, suburban, and rural settings and across resident types — by half or more.
  • Expand Funding Options for Multi-Family Housing: We will provide financing support to multi-family developments that help increase density in areas of opportunity by supporting new financing tools through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Private Activity Bonds. These tools will be designed to help raise capital for private projects that support underserved populations or regions.
  • Reduce Homelessness by Providing Housing with Supportive Services: We do too little to help people who are homeless find stability, leading the government to end up paying more for it on the back end in emergency health and social services. The Bennet Administration will create a $7.5 billion per-year grant program for states, local governments, and nonprofits to develop and expand innovative, community-based programs for people who are homeless. These programs will pair housing provision with supportive services, including mental and physical health, addiction treatment, high-quality job training, and financial literacy. We will set a goal of working with state and local officials, as well as nonprofits, to end all forms of homelessness by 2028.

Help Middle-Class and Working Families Afford a Home

The cost of housing is squeezing the middle class and preventing others from ever entering it. Nearly 40% of America’s 43 million renter households spend more than 30% of their income on rent, and 17% are severely rent-burdened, paying more than half of their income to their landlord. Additionally, rising costs across the board keep millions of working families from affording a down payment. The Bennet Administration will increase assistance to renters, help working families buy homes through a down payment credit, and increase access to credit for small mortgages.

  • Fully Fund Opportunity Vouchers: The federal housing voucher program helps low-income renters — often seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, or families with young children — afford a stable home. Rigorous studies demonstrate that housing vouchers substantially reduce homelessness, cut foster care placements, and reduce the rates at which kids are forced to move from one school to another. They also reduce rates of alcoholism and domestic violence. Despite these positive effects, the program does not come close to matching need. Only one out of every four people who qualify receive a voucher, and the three out of four denied assistance often face severe cost burdens. Wait lists in mid-sized cities are often thousands of people long and some families wait five years or more for a voucher. In some places, families can spend decades on wait lists. One study of HUD data found that over 80% of recipients waited longer than a year to receive their voucher, and more than one in eight waited five years or more. In addition, vouchers are not adjusted to the cost of living in a particular community, which pushes residents away from good jobs and into neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. The Bennet Administration will dramatically increase the number of vouchers to fully meet need over 15 years, including for the VASH program, which helps veterans. The plan will ramp up that investment by first meeting the needs of the most vulnerable ⁠— seniors, people who are disabled, and families at risk of severe distress ⁠— in the initial years, eventually scaling the program to meet the full demand for all eligible families. A phased approach will help ensure that affordable supply expands alongside demand support. The plan would also increase the flexibility and effectiveness of the voucher program by banning source-of-income discrimination, consolidating voucher administration, increasing administrative resources for public housing authorities, and by building on the experience of efforts, like the Small Area Fair Market Rent program, to help people live in a stable environment and better connect them with good job opportunities and good schools for their kids. In addition, the Bennet Administration will deploy models like those successfully used in Seattle’s Creating Moves to Opportunity program to support voucher-holders moving to high-opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Provide Down Payment Assistance: With college and housing costs skyrocketing, for many Americans, the biggest barrier to homeownership is saving for a down payment. The Bennet Administration will create a refundable mortgage down payment tax credit for primary residences. This helps families get over the hurdle of a down payment into homeownership, which would be especially powerful in communities where rental costs often exceed the costs of homeownership.
  • Expand Credit for Small Mortgages through a Loan Fund and Better Appraisals: In small and mid-sized towns across America, it is too hard to get mortgages at smaller levels, such as $50,000. In many high-poverty urban communities, appraisals are low and sales are infrequent, making it difficult to obtain a mortgage to purchase a home or to make repairs.  The Bennet Administration will work to expand credit access for small mortgages to meet the needs of families who want to purchase or make improvements to affordable units in smaller markets or in high-poverty neighborhoods. 

Reform Federal Housing Tax Incentives

Instead of helping people rise into the middle class, our tax code too often favors the wealthy. That’s especially true when it comes to housing subsidies. For decades, a majority of federal resources for housing have gone to higher-income households, exceeding support for low-income families both on average and in the aggregate. The Bennet Administration will reverse that imbalance. Rather than subsidizing high-income taxpayers to build even larger homes, we will reform federal policy to support renters and homeowners facing the greatest difficulties affording a place to live. Reforming the tax incentives that currently provide a disproportionate benefit to high-income taxpayers will help pay for investments that are designed to increase housing supply, helping working families and the most vulnerable afford to rent or own their home and build wealth. 

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