The coronavirus pandemic, an ongoing recession, healthcare woes and tensions between the United States and China have combined to put one critical policy area on the backburner ahead of the 2020 election: housing.
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But maybe not for much longer.
Its most basic tenet is getting rid of zoning regulations that put a stranglehold on the supply of housing, which sends prices skyrocketing.
“Exclusionary zoning has for decades been strategically used to keep people of color and low-income families out of certain communities,” Biden writes.
His language borrows from a bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., that would withhold federal funds for community development and transportation infrastructure from localities that don’t reform their zoning regulations to allow for more housing to be built.
Biden would also “give states and localities the technical assistance and planning support they need to eliminate exclusionary zoning policies and other local regulations that contribute to sprawl.”
Zoning laws are one way that wealthy suburbs stay wealthy, so that's part of the reason behind the claim that Biden would destroy the suburbs.
Another key pillar of his plan would vastly expand Section 8 housing vouchers. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, there are more than 17 million American households that qualify for the rental assistance program but don't receive help simply because Congress doesn’t allocate enough money to it.
Section 8 housing vouchers started as part of the Nixon-era National Housing Act with the intention of moving people out of government housing and into private homes subsidized by vouchers.
The biggest problem the program has faced, besides underfunding, is discrimination by landlords who refuse to accept vouchers.
Several states have passed “source of income” laws that prohibit landlords from discriminating against voucher-holders, but the budget center still estimates that only about one-third of voucher-holders are protected by law. Biden wants to enact a federal law to prohibit landlords nationwide from discriminating against people who use the Section 8 system.
Researchers from Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy ran an analysis for Vox on Biden’s Section 8 expansion plan and found that it would reduce poverty by 22 percent, and child poverty by 34 percent.
Biden also wants to create a Homeowner Bill of Rights, protect tenants from eviction by providing them legal assistance, establish tax incentives to build affordable housing, and enact a number of other policies he thinks will make housing more affordable.
From his perspective, it's probable that none of those initiatives amount to "destroying" the suburbs. Residents of wealthier neighborhoods, who typically argue that lower-income housing drags down their property values, might disagree.