In the richest country in the history of the world, every American must have a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home as a fundamental right.
For more than 40 years, we have had an affordable housing crisis in America that has only gotten worse.
In America today, over 18 million families are paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing, while last year alone the five largest banks on Wall Street made a record-breaking $111 billion in profits.
How are families in America supposed to pay for food, transportation, health care, prescription drugs, education, and childcare when over half of their income is going to pay the rent or the mortgage? The sad and painful reality is that many of them cannot, and millions of Americans are going deeply into debt just to make ends meet.
In America today, there is virtually no city or town where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a decent, two-bedroom apartment. Meanwhile, the top 25 hedge fund managers in America made an average of $850 million apiece last year.
In America today, over half a million people will be sleeping out on the streets or in homeless shelters because they don’t have the money to put a roof over their heads. Meanwhile, large, profitable corporations like Amazon, which is owned by the wealthiest person in the world, pay nothing in federal income taxes.
In America today, corrupt real estate developers are gentrifying neighborhoods and forcing working families out of the homes and apartments where they have lived their entire lives and replacing them with fancy condominiums and hotels that only the very rich can afford.
Sadly, we have a president right now who is not only ignoring the affordable housing crisis. He and his administration are actively making it worse.
Instead of expanding federal housing programs, Trump wants to cut them by $9.6 billion, or 18 percent.
Instead of working to substantially reduce the outrageously high price of housing, Trump has proposed tripling what some of the poorest senior citizens and people with disabilities in America are paying for rent today.
Instead of expanding affordable housing, Trump is proposing to eliminate the National Housing Trust Fund, which invests in affordable housing and was based on legislation Bernie spearheaded in Congress.
And outrageously, Trump has signed tax legislation that further enriches wealthy real estate investors and encourages gentrification. That is unacceptable and has got to change.
In the richest country in the history of the world, every American must have a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home as a fundamental right. We need a homes guarantee.
In America today, there is a shortage of 7.4 million affordable homes for the lowest-income renters. This severe housing shortage is negatively impacting rural and urban communities throughout America.
Nearly half of the renters facing the greatest housing shortage are seniors or persons with disabilities. While rents are skyrocketing in large housing markets like New York or San Francisco, there has also been a spike in the number of Americans in rural areas who spend over half of their limited incomes on housing. Incredibly, while wages have stagnated throughout the country, average housing prices have gone up by 188 percent over the past three decades, while the median rent has increased by more than 60 percent since 1960. That has got to change.
In 2001, Bernie first introduced legislation to create the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, based largely on the success of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund. After a 15-year effort, in 2016, a modest version of Bernie’s legislation became the first new federal affordable housing program funded in several decades. Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it is funded through a small percentage of revenues from the government-sponsored housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Over the past four years, this program has invested $905 million on the construction, rehabilitation and preservation of affordable housing throughout the country — but unfortunately that is not nearly enough compared to the demand.
If we are serious about addressing the affordable housing crisis, we need to build millions of apartments and homes throughout the country that will remain affordable in perpetuity to prevent displacement and serve future generations. And when we do that, we will create millions of good-paying jobs in the process.
For decades, our nation has failed to provide adequate funding for public housing, causing our public housing stock to fall into a state of complete disrepair. Most public housing is in desperate need of reconstruction and rehabilitation. As a direct result of this chronic underinvestment, residents lose heat in the winter, need kitchen repairs to cook their meals, and do not have adequate accommodations for residents with disabilities. Public housing residents should not be forced to live in unhealthy and unsafe conditions because of a massive underinvestment in these facilities.
In America today, an estimated 1.6 million families are on a waiting list for public housing because of a lack of federal funding, and it can take several years before many of these families are able to receive the assistance that they need.
In addition, more than 10,000 public housing units are lost each year due to demolition and disposition, often because they are in poor condition. This can eliminate the only affordable housing option for communities throughout America. That is unacceptable. It is past time to preserve, rehabilitate and expand our nation’s public housing stock.
Today, 7.7 million families in America are forced to pay more than half of their limited incomes on rent because they are eligible for Section 8 rental assistance but do not receive it because of a lack of federal resources. As a result, many of these families are forced to choose between paying rent or buying the food, medicine, or prescription drugs they need.
That is unacceptable. We need to fully fund the Section 8 rental assistance program to make sure that every person in America who is eligible for this program is able to get it without being put on a waiting list. This will significantly reduce poverty, help families at risk of becoming homeless, and reduce evictions.
And importantly, this assistance will help families afford rent right away while new affordable homes are being constructed.
In America today, more than two-thirds of states preempt or limit the ability of their communities to establish rent control or stabilization rules to protect the American people against excessive increases in rent. That has got to change.
We need to establish a national rent control standard and allow cities and states to go even further to protect tenants from the skyrocketing price of housing.
Further, we must recognize that we are in the midst of an eviction crisis. At least 2 million renters throughout the country are at risk of losing their homes each year. Evictions, often over as little as $100, cause tremendous stress on families and can lead to worse health outcomes, job losses, and an unacceptable disruption in a child’s education.
We need to protect tenants from unjust evictions and provide support to ensure we keep families in their homes.
Zip codes in New York City, where a right to counsel was created in 2017, saw their eviction rates drop five times faster than comparable areas. Expanding these programs to other states and cities will reduce evictions and give tenants fair representation in court.
While we expand and build new housing, we must ensure that current tenants and homeowners are not forced out of their homes or neighborhoods. We must also ensure that wealthy and exclusionary neighborhoods do not prevent new development, forcing gentrification and displacement in low-income and minority areas. In addition, developers and speculators must not reap profits from these neighborhoods without reinvesting in the existing community.
Currently, nine states do not allow for inclusionary zoning rules that require developers to set aside affordable housing on their projects. That has got to change.
We also need to promote integration and end local segregation that excludes low-income and minority tenants and homeowners. Restrictive zoning ordinances are a racist legacy of Jim Crow-era efforts to enforce segregation. We need to make federal housing and transportation funds contingent on remedying these zoning ordinances and coordinate with state and local officials and leaders to ensure equitable zoning.
Federal funds must no longer be used to segregate and disrupt our communities. The interstate highway expansion often cut through low-income and minority communities, segregated urban areas, and contributed to sprawl. We must reorient federal policy to create livable, connected communities for all.
It is unacceptable that in America tonight, more than half a million Americans will be sleeping out on the streets or in homeless shelters because they don’t have the money to put a roof over their heads, while the three richest families in America experienced a $101 billion increase in their wealth last year. This is a national embarrassment. In the richest country on Earth, we will invest nearly $32 billion over the next five years to end homelessness in America.
It is unacceptable that more than 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, people still face housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, country of origin, or disability. That has got to end. We must strengthen and expand the Fair Housing Act and increase enforcement to eliminate housing discrimination which is still pervasive throughout the United States.
When Bernie was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he took the lead in establishing the first municipally-funded community land trust to provide affordable homeownership opportunities to working families. Now called the Champlain Housing Trust, it now manages over 600 shared equity homes and has helped over 1,000 families become first-time homebuyers. In a community land trust, families purchase homes at affordable prices and agree to sell them back to the trust at a restricted price. This keeps homes affordable in perpetuity and builds wealth for families who currently are priced out of homeownership.
As president, Bernie will provide grants to states, cities, and towns to establish their own community land trusts that will enable over 1 million households to purchase a shared equity home over the next 25 years. Further, when those families begin building wealth and move on to conventional homeownership, the homes will remain affordable for future owners.
This program will also combat gentrification. For example, the Douglass Community Land Trust in Washington, D.C., which operates in gentrified areas, has successfully helped many families stay in the neighborhoods they grew up in or have lived in for decades. Moreover, this program will promote resident-owned manufactured housing communities to give residents more control over their housing costs and to prevent evictions.
As a result of stagnant wages and the outrageously high price of housing, the American dream of homeownership is simply out of reach for tens of millions of families throughout the country.
The rate of homeownership in America is lower today than it was in 1980 and still has not recovered from the 2008 housing crisis. That has got to change. We need to substantially expand federal programs to make sure that Americans throughout the country have the ability to buy their first home.
We also need to make housing counseling available to all prospective homebuyers. Study after study shows that people who receive counseling before buying a home are far more likely to succeed at homeownership.
When Bernie was on the House Financial Services Committee, he fought to end predatory lending in the subprime housing market. Congress refused to act and predatory subprime lending became rampant.
Millions of Americans lost their homes, jobs, and life savings while Wall Street received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world with no strings attached.
Black Americans alone lost 40 percent of their wealth in the 2009 housing crisis and were directly targeted by predatory lenders.
While the government bailed out the crooks on Wall Street, ordinary Americans who were victims of predatory lending and mortgage fraud were left behind. That needs to change.
Americans who lost their homes as a result of mortgage fraud and predatory lending must be provided the down payment assistance they need to buy a new home or receive financial aid to pay their current mortgage or rent.
Further, many of the homes that Americans lost to foreclosure during the Great Recession were sold right back to the same Wall Street firms that caused the crisis. Since the financial crisis, firms on Wall Street have purchased thousands of homes, turned them into rentals, and securitized them to make outrageous profits. That has got to change.
We will pass a Green New Deal to achieve 100 percent sustainable energy for electricity and a fully decarbonized building sector by no later than 2030.
Bernie is counting on all of us to continue fighting for our progressive agenda. There is only one way we will transform this country – and that is together.
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