Family Finances

Democrats Hear the ‘Yes in My Backyard’ Message

August 6, 2019  • Financial Security Program & Jenny Schuetz

Key Points

  • Eye-popping housing costs have convinced some presidential candidates that looser zoning should be a national cause.

“The squeeze on young renters in expensive cities, a key Democratic constituency, gives the subject added urgency in the primary campaign. It may also help explain why a half-dozen candidates—also including Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris—have all issued detailed plans on housing policy. Plans from BookerCastro, and Harris, for example, would establish new federal tax credits for renters, similar to an existing law providing a mortgage-interest deduction for homeowners. Warren’sproposal includes more federal funding to build middle-income rental housing in some parts of the country. Klobuchar’s plan expands legal protections for renters of all incomes. Three issues have emerged as particular touch points in the candidates’ plans: promoting affordability for middle-income families, reducing barriers to new construction, and addressing the lingering effects of prior racial discrimination.
Still, the plans these candidates have proposed are more technocratic than sweeping. While a number of Democrats have proposed ambitious changes to the nation’s health-care and higher-education systems—under the bold slogans “Debt-free college” and Medicare for All—their discussion of housing has been much more modest. “The rent is too damn high” has yet to become the cornerstone of anyone’s presidential campaign…”
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