Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced a $2.5 trillion plan that he says would provide affordable housing for all Americans.
“I have no doubt that within five minutes after this speech is made public, my critics will be jumping up and down as is usually the case and they will tell you that the plan that I am releasing is expensive,” Sanders said Saturday when he unveiled his plan, according to The New York Times. “And the truth is it is expensive.”
The plan, dubbed “Housing for All,” calls for spending $1.48 trillion over a decade to produce 7.4 million housing units that Sanders said would be affordable forever.
Another $400 billion would be used to build 2 million mixed-income “social housing” units, which would “help desegregate and integrate communities.”
The senator’s plan also would provide $410 billion for Section 8 rental assistance for the poor and $32 billion to end homelessness.
Sanders said his plan would “guarantee every American — regardless of income — a fundamental right to a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home.”
“There is virtually no place in America where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a decent two-bedroom apartment,” he said, according to The Hill. “At a time when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, this is unacceptable. For too long the federal government has ignored the extraordinary housing crisis in our country. That will end when I am president.”
Another way Sanders’ plan would close the “affordable housing gap” is by nationwide rent control — limiting rent increases to either 3 percent or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index.
In an Op-Ed for Reason, Christian Britschgi said the real gap is between the senator’s plan and reality.
“Rent control has long been derided by economists as a well-intentioned policy that comes with a host of unintended consequences: Limiting the return developers can make on new housing construction disincentivizes them from building more units,” he wrote, citing the example of San Francisco, which embraced rent control in the 1990s and found the gentrification took place, not an increase in affordable housing.
Britschgi also noted that building housing units is not simply the federal government’s call.
“Nevertheless, building the number of new units the senator is calling for would require local and state governments to repeal their own restrictions on new housing development, a policy Sanders has yet to embrace,” he wrote.
“Building affordable housing in expensive cities is not, well, affordable. That’s because the same land costs, impact fees, union hiring, and wage requirements, and restrictive zoning laws that make private development difficult also hamstring government and non-profit developers,” Britschgi wrote, noting that the median cost to build affordable housing in California is $300,000.
“So long as these rules remain in place, the level of public housing construction Sanders is calling for just isn’t going to happen,” he wrote.