State of the Union Roundup: On Rent and Infrastructure

In describing the state of the union, President Barack Obama addressed a issues of professional and personal concern to Planetizen readers.

Read Time: 3 minutes

January 21, 2015, 2:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A column in Bloomberg Businessweek addresses the State of the Union's take on housing. "It's a sign that the housing market is largely mended that Barack Obama barely mentioned homeownership in his penultimate State of the Union address Tuesday night, as he did at least 16 times in his previous six State of the Unions," writes Patrick Clark.

But the really telling omission, according to the article, is the lack of discussion of rent. After explaining why the president is so much more likely to discuss homeownership rather than rent, Clark goes on to imagine what the president would have said if he had addressed rent. One possible policy worth pursuing, according to the article: strengthening the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Anthony Flint focused on the president's State of the Union attention to infrastructure in an article for CityLab. "In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama once again made that most eat-your-vegetables of admonitions—America's urgent need to invest in infrastructure. Still, the same questions remain: which projects are most deserving, and above all, how should we pay for them?"

Flint also writes about the president's omissions as well as detailing some of the critical efforts going on around the country to fund and build infrastructure, noting for instance, the Obama Administration's recent announcement of a Qualified Public Infrastructure Bond program to "designed to enable more infrastructure-focused public-private partnerships for states and metro areas."

Norman Eisen writes for Brookings about a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment from the State of the Union when President Obama mentioned changes to the home mortgage program, which, writes Eisen, "would be one of the most immediately impactful governance changes emerging from this high-profile speech." 

Finally, in a first-of-its-kind effort, the State of the Union address was made available to the public prior to the speech so they could read along. The speech was available on Medium, so I've excerpted the most direct references to policy of concern to the Planetizen audience below: 

  • "We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump."
  • "21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come."
  • "Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America. Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home."
  • "2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it."

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