California’s presidential primary is coming up fast — March 3 is just two weeks away. And Democratic contenders are vying for votes by getting specific about perhaps the most vital issue to Californians: housing.
On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” CalMatters’ Matt Levin and The Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon break down the housing plans of the major remaining presidential candidates. They also interview Jenny Schuetz, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute, on the role of federal policy in California’s housing crisis.
“I think the rest of the country is watching California and saying ‘please let us not end up being California,’” Schuetz said. “You guys are a big chunk of the national problem, and there are an awful lot of people who need a place to live.”
President Donald Trump’s housing plans, at least as detailed in his most recent budget proposal, are centered around cuts. Trump wants to reduce funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by around 18 percent and completely scrap Community Development Block Grants, which provide funding for affordable housing and infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods. The administration also continues to push for a stronger law enforcement response to those who are homeless.
As for the Democrats, Matt and Liam present the first-ever Gimme Awards for housing plans from major presidential candidates:
Most nonexistent housing plan among the Democratic presidential field: Joe Biden. The former vice president is the only major contender without a formal housing plan. He has discussed a few ideas such as an urban revitalization fund and the notion that no Americans should pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
Most tenant-friendly housing plan: Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator is the only candidate to advocate national rent control, and his proposal is stricter than the new rent control law California passed last year. He also wants a vacancy tax and a punitive tax on house flippers.
Most detailed housing plan: Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts senator wants $500 billion in new affordable housing and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers from historically segregated and redlined neighborhoods — funded by increases in estate taxes. She also wants to incentivize cities and states to get rid of zoning restrictions, block states from blocking local rent control, and create a Tenant Protection Bureau.
Most McKinsey-esque (technocratic) housing plan: A tie between Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, and Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Bloomberg’s plan guarantees housing vouchers to everyone making 30 percent or less of the median income. He also would make transportation funding contingent on cities relaxing their zoning restrictions to encourage more housing. Buttigieg wants increased funding for affordable housing and low-income housing, as well as offering grants for home ownership to black Americans.
And finally, the Gimme for the candidate who appears to have momentum in the moderate lane of the Democratic primary: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Basically, improve what’s already in place — more money for the low-income housing tax credits, making sure everyone eligible for federal Section 8 housing assistance has access to it, and prioritizing federal funding for housing and infrastructure to areas with good zoning plans.
CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.