The current election in the United States has been very cutthroat and brought a lot of issues into the light for further examination by the American people. One issue we haven’t heard come up a lot in conversation is each candidate’s plans for the housing industry. From conquering homelessness to the distribution of tax credits, these candidates don’t fall in agreement almost anywhere when it comes to housing.
Policies on Fair Housing and Disbursement of Funds
Both candidates share different opinions about Fair Housing and the disbursement of tax incentives and government funds.
Joe Biden released an in-depth Housing Policy in February of 2020 that outlined all of his specific plans for tackling the United States’ housing crisis. First and foremost notable is that Joe Biden wants to expand Section 8 and make it an entitlement. Currently, only one fifth of the households that are eligible for Sec. 8 assistance actually receive it. Making Sec 8 accessible to those who need it helps low-income families get back on their feet.
Joe Biden also noted that he would be reinstating the AFFH Rule that Trump threw out. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, brought about by the Obama Administration, puts a finer point on making sure municipalities do not allow discriminatory practices. This rule was favored by politicians on both sides of the aisle with its main criticism being that it required too many steps for municipalities to go through to follow the rule. That being the case, it’s not believed by many that the solution was to throw the whole rule out.
The Trump Campaign never released a formal housing policy package, but we can look at what Trump has done during his time in office to see in what direction he may go and what his past actions point to in another term as president.
In addition to scrapping the AFFH Rule, Donald Trump also has made amendments to two major rules used in Fair Housing, the Equal Access Rule and the Disparate Impact Rule. The amendment to the Equal Access Rule lets single-sex goverment-backed homeless shelters turn away transgender folks. This amendment means that a person who identifies as a woman would not be granted access to an all-women's homeless shelter. The Disparate Impact Rule is used most often in court cases to fight against unfair housing practices. Amending this rule made it impossible to be used in court cases. There are advocates for the Disparate Impact Rule on both sides of the aisle.
Both candidates have made comments on their intended actions to cure homelessness in the United States. During a pandemic, this is an important topic that many in the real estate industry want to see action on.
Joe Biden’s housing policy packet, released in February of 2020 outlined that Biden would be pledging $13 billion in spending to fight homelessness. Within his criminal justice proposal, his campaign included a goal of ensuring housing for all formerly incarcerated individuals upon release from prison.
Last year, Donald Trump promised to tear down homeless encampments in California and provide housing for displaced individuals, but nothing came of it. He did however, during his term, approve increases in federal homelessness assistance grants.
Taxes & Zoning
Both candidates have opposing views on the allocation of funds as far as who receives them.
Biden has stated that he plans to incentivize the limiting of single-family zoning, which attributes to inventory shortages and artificially drives up pricing of land and housing. Limiting single-family zoning allows for more multifamily housing to be built and would increase inventory and availability of housing.
Joe Biden wants to offer a tax credit to low-income individuals paying more than 30% of their income on housing since wages have not kept up with inflation of housing costs. He also wants to give first-time home buyers a down payment tax credit of up to $15,000.
During his time in office, Trump created Opportunity Zones which gave tax incentives to businesses to go into distressed communities to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Both sides of the aisle have liked this idea, but criticize that it lacks the reporting required, so we can’t measure what the results are. Another criticism is that these tax incentives go to businesses that would have already invested in those communities instead of going directly to low-income families. The counter of this critique is that these tax breaks “trickle down” to the members of the community.
Donald Trump has also recommended the privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, federally backed mortgage companies. Many people have questioned how this would affect buyers because federal backing allows Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer affordable rates and operate at a lower risk.
In conclusion, both candidates have very opposing views on most elements that make up our housing industry. It is difficult to speculate since Biden has never been president before, so his pledges and promises are dependent on him getting an approving Senate to assist in passing legislation and Trump did not release a housing policy plan for people to compare against Biden’s, so we can only use his prior actions to guess his plans for the future if he is re-elected.