Tuesday, August 2, 2016
(Photo Credit: BizBash)
Now it's time to dive into the 2016 Democratic Party Platform. Here’s what the Democrats have to say about housing and property law:
Expanding Access to Affordable Housing and Homeownership
Whereas the Republican Presidential nominee rooted for the housing crisis, Democrats will continue to fight for those families who suffered the loss of their homes. We will help those who are working toward a path of financial stability and will put sustainable home ownership into the reach of more families. Democrats will also combat the affordable housing crisis and skyrocketing rents in many parts of the country, which is leading too many families and workers to be pushed out of communities where they work.
We will preserve and increase the supply of affordable rental housing by expanding incentives to ease local barriers to building new affordable rental housing developments in areas of economic opportunity. We will substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units. Not only will this help address the affordable housing crisis, it will also create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. Democrats believe that we should provide more federal resources to the people struggling most with unaffordable housing: low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly.
We will expand efforts to address the lingering effects of the foreclosure crisis through programs like the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. We will also expand programs to prevent displacement of existing residents, especially in communities of color; create affordable and workforce housing; and preserve neighborhood-serving nonprofit organizations and small businesses. We will reinvigorate housing production programs, repair public housing, and increase funding for the housing choice voucher program and other rental assistance programs. And we will fight for robust funding to end homelessness in our cities and counties once and for all, through targeted investments to provide the necessary outreach, social services, and housing options for all populations experiencing homelessness. We will engage in a stronger, more coordinated, and better funded partnership among federal, state, and local governments to end chronic homelessness for millions of Americans. We will build on and expand President Obama's promising initiatives to end veteran and family homelessness in our country.
We must make sure that everyone has a fair shot at homeownership. We will keep the housing market robust and inclusive by supporting more first-time homebuyers and putting more Americans into the financial position to become sustainable homeowners; preserving the 30-year fixed rate mortgage; modernizing credit scoring; clarifying lending rules; expanding access to housing counseling; defending and strengthening the Fair Housing Act; and ensuring that regulators have the clear direction, resources, and authority to enforce those rules effectively. We will prevent predatory lending by defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). These steps are especially important because over the next decade most new households will be formed by families in communities of color, which typically have less generational wealth and fewer resources to put towards a down payment.
Guaranteeing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights
***We will also fight for comprehensive federal non- discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, to guarantee equal rights in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding.
Ending Poverty and Investing in Communities Left Behind
***We will expand and make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit. We will improve safety by repairing crumbling infrastructure in communities that need it most as well as on tribal lands. And we will make investments in affordable housing near good jobs and good schools.
Building Strong Cities and Metro Areas
***We will provide resources to help overcome blight, expand Community Development Block Grant funds, provide more housing support to high-poverty communities, and build more affordable rental housing units.
Honoring Indigenous Tribal Nations
***We will strengthen the operation of tribal housing programs, and reauthorize the Indian Housing Block Grant Program. We will increase affordable and safe housing and fight to significantly reduce homelessness on and off Indian reservations, especially among Native youth and veterans.
Pursuing Our Innovation Agenda: Science, Research, Education, and Technology
Democrats value American innovation and believe it is one of our country’s great strengths. We will protect the intellectual property rights of artists, creators, and inventors at home and abroad. The entire nation prospers when we promote the unique and original artistic and cultural contributions of the women and men who create and preserve our nation’s heritage.
Democrats will fight against unfair theft of intellectual property and trade secrets. We will increase access to global markets for American intellectual property and other digital trade by opposing quotas, discriminatory measures, and data localization requirements.
Now let me make a few general comments and observations. First, the affordable housing plank talks about combatting “the affordable housing crisis and skyrocketing rents in many parts of the country.” I wonder if this means rent control legislation. How would they suggest we push back against rising rents? No doubt this is a huge problem, but some additional specifics would have been useful.
As to increasing the affordable housing stock, the platform says the party wants to “substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units.” Obviously this means more federal spending on housing, but what else? I noticed that a lot of the housing/property policy positions (more below) are about increasing funding. That's great but does that mean new spending or does that mean cut-backs in other housing (or non-housing) programs?
Also, regarding the goal of addressing “the lingering effects of the foreclosure crisis” I was curious to get more specifics. The HAMP program was pretty unsuccessful in refinancing the debt of many underwater American homeowners. Most people lost their homes in the wake of the crisis (when Democrats were in control of the White House and both houses of Congress), so what new programs would be offered? And…isn’t it a little too late?
The party also says it wants to “make sure that everyone has a fair shot at homeownership” but is short on details. The platform talks about “preserving the 30-year fixed rate mortgage” (is anyone suggesting that it’s going away?) and “putting more Americans into the financial position to become sustainable homeowners.” Credit is still tight since the crisis – and black and Hispanic borrowers are really feeling the credit squeeze. I would have liked to know more about how the party would reconcile the desire to provide access to credit with the need for mortgage lenders to utilize prescribed underwriting criteria. Also, noticeably absent from this discussion is anything about the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. How can anyone talk about housing finance and homeownership and not discuss the GSEs and their perpetual conservatorship? This is a noticeable absence from the party’s platform paper (and a real weakness in my view).
Also, it appears that we can look for gender identify and sexual orientation to be added to the Civil Rights Act and related federal statutes, as the party says they will “fight for comprehensive federal non- discrimination protections for all LGBT Americans.” This will, of course, include housing discrimination.
In the "Ending Poverty" section I found it somewhat strange (although perhaps it was implied) that although there was mention of expanding the New Market Tax Credit program (which is geared toward creating or expanding business opportunities in low-income communities) there was no mention of the federal housing tax credit program (LIHTC). I suppose the statement about making “investments in affordable housing” might arguably include that program, but if you’re going to mention one tax credit program by name why not mention the other if you’re talking about affordable housing.
When it comes to building/rebuilding communities, the platform says the party will "provide resources to help overcome blight, expand Community Development Block Grant funds, provide more housing support to high-poverty communities, and build more affordable rental housing units."Again, this is a little light on details and heavy on aspirations. The most substance here is that funding will increase. Perhaps the “build more affordable rental housing units” is meant to capture the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program’s expansion? Will CDBG be made more flexible in terms of how it can be spent?
Lastly, the most substantive comments in the intellectual property rights section have to do with “opposing quotas, discriminatory measures, and data localization requirements.” As I mentioned in the RNC post, I would have liked to have seen more discussion of the digital economy here and the emerging challenging that those markets and innovations present.
As a final note, another item that featured prominently in the RNC's platform, but was completely absent from the DNC's, was any talk about eminent domain/the Takings Clause. In other words, discussion of the sanctity of property rights was not a main focus here (although I think you could say that, taken together, the property/housing platform for the DNC broadly includes that notion).
Please share your thoughts in the comments below!