affordable housing

The affordable housing crisis is likely one of the biggest issues for working-class Americans, and Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 campaign announcement has finally put it in the mainstream political conversation.

In a recent Washington Post article on the policy platform Senator Warren (D-Massachusetts) is running on, fixing the affordable housing crisis is listed right at the top of her goals. Warren framed the housing crisis as yet another example of an extreme amount of wealth being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, and has a two-pronged approach to correct the balance.

[E]arlier this year, Warren … unveiled a housing bill that would aim to reward local governments for relaxing strict zoning laws that have prevented developers from expanding the supply of housing. The plan also calls for investing billions more in government spending in affordable housing projects, as well as helping black families historically hurt by federal housing practices.

Warren’s affordable housing bill, as Grit Post previously reported, would raise the estate tax (which only affects the richest 0.2 percent of taxpayers) in order to fund $500 billion in new affordable housing construction.

“Housing is the biggest expense for most working families – and costs for everyone, everywhere are skyrocketing,” Sen. Warren stated after unveiling the bill. “Rural housing is falling apart and decades of discrimination has excluded generations of Black families from homeownership. My bill would cut rents by 10 percent and give families in urban, rural, and suburban communities more economic security.”

The fact that wages have not kept up with costs of living is evident in the 2018 Out of Reach report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). Out of all 50 states, the most affordable average rent for a standard two-bedroom apartment is in Arkansas, where renters must make an average of $13.84/month to afford a two-bedroom home at fair market rent, according to data from the NLIHC. However, Arkansas’ minimum wage is slated to be just $11/hour by 2021.

affordable housing
Average minimum wage needed to afford a two-bedroom home at fair market rent by state (Chart by National Low Income Housing Coalition)

Earlier in 2018, then-candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Grit Post that in her Congressional district, the rapidly rising cost of monthly rent is driven in part by the wealthiest members of society buying up real estate inventory as a means of hiding their wealth.

“Over 50 percent of the luxury apartments in Midtown Manhattan are vacant. They’re being used by oligarchs to store and hide wealth. Even though they purchase these homes, they don’t live in them,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a phone interview. “This is Panama Papers, Paradise Papers-type stuff.”

“It’s turning this city into a ghost town … Small businesses can no longer survive in the city, and people can no longer afford to live in the city,” she continued.

Sen. Warren’s presidential announcement on Monday makes her the third candidate to officially throw her hat into the 2020 Democratic primary ring. Both West Virginia lawmaker and Army veteran Richard Ojeda — who voted for Trump in 2016 and frames himself as a champion of working-class rural voters — and California-based venture capitalist and basic income proponent Andrew Yang have also declared their candidacies.

While Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is considered to be a 2020 contender and has spoken out about the affordable housing crisis before, he has yet to officially declare his intent to run for president in the upcoming cycle.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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