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The attention paid by candidates to affordable housing this election cycle isn’t entirely surprising. The homelessness crises in America’s major cities are ongoing humanitarian disasters that have garnered national and even international attention. The price of housing in the U.S. has risen far faster than wages, leaving tens of millions of households burdened by their monthly rent.
“For a very long time, rent burdens and the housing problems that low-income people face have been part of a national advocacy effort,” says Noëlle Porter, director of government affairs at the National Housing Law Project (NHLP). “Now we’re at a place where your average American is rent burdened and that forces it to become part of ‘kitchen table’ conversations. At that moment it becomes an issue that candidates have to address.”
With no other candidates left in the primary race, Biden is now the presumptive Democratic nominee. He has proposed an ambitious housing platform to spend upward of $640 billion to increase federal funding for the construction and maintenance of public housing, and access to Housing Choice Vouchers and other rental assistance. His plan would also expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, bolster the Fair Housing Act, and more.
If Biden wins and is able to implement his housing goals, it would mark a significant shift in how America tackles housing affordability. But with Democrats fairly unlikely to flip the Senate and Senate Republicans even less likely to sign on to sweeping affordable housing reforms, Biden would face a steep uphill battle for any idea that required Congressional approval.
So what could a future Democratic president accomplish on affordable housing if they can’t get their bills passed? Perhaps not enough to create paradigm shifts. But according to housing advocates and policy experts, the executive branch has a lot of leeway within administrative rulemaking to increase access to housing, protect vulnerable communities from discrimination, and potentially even increase housing supply.
For instance ...