Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled outlines of a sweeping $2.5 trillion housing plan during a campaign stop in Las Vegas on Saturday, a bold and far-reaching agenda that includes national rent control, ending homelessness, and turning federal housing assistance into an entitlement.
By introducing the plan in Nevada, a state hard-hit by the Great Recession and housing crisis, Sen. Sanders aims to steer the debate over an issue of rising importance among Democratic voters, and perhaps make a mark in an early primary state, where talk of affordability and rising rents resonates strongly.
“For too long, this is one of those issues that we just don’t talk about,” he said at a Las Vegas union hall, according to the New York Times. “We have an affordable housing crisis in Nevada, in Vermont and all over this country that must be addressed.”
Housing must be a right. We will:
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 14, 2019
For all renters, he would build 2 million mixed-income units, provide $50 billion in grants for community land trusts, promote robust legal protections for fair housing and take steps to eliminate racial discrimination and gentrification, and cap annual rent increases nationally at no more than one and a half times the rate of inflation or 3 percent, whichever is higher. For low-income renters specifically, he would turn housing assistance—the voucher program known as Section 8—into an entitlement, guaranteeing it to every American, and eliminating the long wait times. He would also expand the National Housing Trust Fund to help construct, rehabilitate, and preserve 7.4 million housing units for seniors and those with low-income or disabilities.
In addition, a Sanders administration would invest $32 billion over five years to combat homelessness, including support for outreach services for those experiencing chronic homelessness.
Sander’s plan systemically addresses many of the shortfalls in the nation’s housing support system. Currently, federal housing assistance is only available for one in five families in need who qualify, but nearly half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and rent growth continues to outpace wage growth. Public housing authorities nationwide face an estimated $56.6 billion shortfall to properly upgrade and repair aging homes and apartments.
The plan adopts many policies Sanders implemented while serving as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980s, including establishing a community land trust that still successfully operates today and setting up a housing trust fund.
To pay for the plan, Sanders would push for a wealth tax on the top one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans, approximately 175,000 households. Details of how he’ll fund this ambitious expansion of housing aid, like the rest of the proposal, are said to be forthcoming in the following weeks.
During the speech, Sanders contrasted President Donald Trump’s life of privilege with his own upbringing, which included years growing up in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn. Trump and his administration has repeatedly tried to cut federal housing assistance and rollback regulations protecting renters from discrimination.
Sen. Sanders’s plan joins a growing list of housing proposals within the Democratic primary field, including those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former housing secretary Julian Castro, and Sen. Kamala Harris.