Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the progressive politician currently toying with the idea of running for the presidency, has introduced drastic legislative measures to combat the United States housing crisis. Her bill, introduced to the Senate last week as The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, wants the government to reap over a half-trillion dollars in billionaire tax-payer funds to be used for investment in affordable housing over the next 10 years, seeking to craft over 3.2 million more basic units for eligible low-and-middle-income families, according to a new report published by The Intercept.
“America’s federal housing policy has been broken for decades,” the senator wrote on her Twitter. “Generations of Black Americans have been excluded from homeownership. Rural housing is falling apart. Rents everywhere are rising. I have a new, bold plan to fix it. We can build a better future for all our families: one with more economic security, more economic mobility, more inclusive communities, and more chances at finding a decent place to live at a decent price. We just need the courage to fight for it.”
The reason for this racial rhetoric is that the bill not only expands basic federal housing on a universal level, but seeks to end under-the-table discrimination in regards to banking, tenant prejudice, and systemic segregation that can go unnoticed by the nominal person. Yes, the advocates of identity politics have beaten their drum to the point of an ignorant nuisance, at least when it comes to their tales of non-issues from cultural appropriation to which Hollywood elitist wins an Oscar, though Warren’s bill isn’t without merit.
The publication cites provisions in the law that would make it illegal for landlords to discriminate against renters with federal housing vouchers (advocates argue these are majority used by racial minorities), imposes new regulations on credit unions and nonbank mortgage lenders (effectively reforming the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which outlaws other types of discriminatory loan policies against minorities), and incentivises these individuals to end such practices moving forward. It’s an ambitious plan, of course, costing the government billions across an entire decade, though her answer to the expected “who’s gonna pay for it” response is to raise the estate tax to the Bush-era levels of 40 percent after the initial $5 million exemption. Under President Trump, the percent remains the same, but the exemption rate doubled to a lavish $11 million.
As the name implies, the estate tax ONLY applies to the rich and wealthy who can actually own estates, hence the name, and it’s triggered upon the death of the individual who has the money. This is otherwise known as “the inheritance tax,” the scarier label of “the death tax” or the reason trust-fund babies like Paris Hilton don’t actually need to work. It’s quite literally a distributionist method to keep the economy flowing. She then cites an investigation by Moody’s Analytics, a financial risk assessment firm, which found returning to these Bush-era rates would be a “fiscally responsible” approach to both ensuring costs for the plan without triggering further deficits or questionable cuts.
“Much of the housing discussion has been about affordability, production, and tenant protections, which are all really important issues,” said Philip Tegeler, the executive director of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, who spoke with The Intercept earlier this week. “What’s so powerful about Warren’s bill is that it aims to tackle all those things, and it also looks at how are we going to structure our society going forward. Fair housing is really embedded in the legislation, and that’s why I find it so creative.”
Though it’s not entirely original either.
Warren’s bill comes months after similar legislation introduced by her colleagues Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and fellow Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), though each differs by only allowing a refundable tax credit for certain renters, allowing certain financial incentives to maybe sorta curb zoning discrimination, and neither goes as hard on the issues as Warren’s legislation. Coincidentally, Booker, Harris, and Warren are all names being tossed around as potential 2020 challengers to President Trump. If they were to run, Warren has the strongest policy argument in favor of the minority vote. In their talks with a Warren aide, The Intercept discovered their plan to incentivize efforts that increase affordable housing access and ease zoning restrictions is for the federal government to install a “competitive grant program” in the vein of “Race to the Top,” an education program that was introduced under President Barack Obama.
During those days, states, metropolitan regions, and cities would compete to best adopt their proposed education reforms, such as an increase in allowed charter schools and changing the process of evaluating quality teachers. The program reportedly saw 46 states improve their entire education sector — all based on the
greed incentive of earning that government cheque. Warren’s bill would essentially be no different applied in the context of district zoning and financial accountability. The plan would start with a wonderful $10 billion in federal funds to be issued in five round challenges, as well as a goal of maximizing both individual liberties and living standards for the poorest of society. In short, if Booker and Harris are placing a band-aid over the problem, it’s Warren, through her economic populism, that’s playing the role of political surgeon.
“Maybe more than any other politician, Elizabeth Warren helped set the tone and agenda for the party’s economic work around the country,” said Henry Kraemer, a Portland-based progressive activist, in his discussion with The Intercept. “To see her saying now that these historic inequities in housing and soaring rents and mortgages are huge problems — well, that’s a big, big deal.”