Tenants Are Front and Center in Presidential Race

Milwaukee       A funny thing happened on the way to the 2020 presidential primaries in the long shadow of the Great Recession of 2007:  Democrats are finally discovering the tenants living right under their noses, and the fact that the American dream is no longer home ownership, it’s affordable housing.  One candidate after another, elbowing to get to the top of the heap is advocating some kind of plan to address the soaring housing costs in cities around the country.

The latest in the new Tenant Sweepstakes is Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey who has now announced his plan.  It has a big price tag and a huge footprint.  His campaign claims his plan, if implemented, would benefit 57 million Americans including 17 million children.  The central objective, importantly is family-based, rather than developer centered.  Booker’s plan would create an entitlement so that a family’s rental costs would be capped at no more than 30% of their income and make up the difference between that number and fair market rent in the family’s neighborhood.  Booker’s plan would involve an income transfer through a tax credit.  It’s pricey. Reporting in the New York Times offered further details, saying,

“There would not be an income cap limiting who could qualify, according to the campaign, which said the median participating family would receive $4,800 per year. His campaign estimated the program would cost $134 billion annually. It did not propose specifically how to pay for the plan beyond rolling back changes to the estate tax made by President Trump, which it said would raise about $25 billion annually. The remainder, the campaign said, would come from restoring various taxes that were cut in the Republican-led tax overhaul from 2017.”

Now, let’s agree, this is a bold and exciting plan on a number of levels, regardless of the fact that Booker is sitting at 2% in the polls and is carrying huge, almost disqualifying baggage from his courtship with billionaires and Wall Street over the years and the charter school and Facebook debacle in Newark while he was mayor.  I also don’t want to get in the weeds with speculation about whether calculating the spread between 30% of income and the family’s neighborhood would subsidize a family’s residence in a lower income neighborhood and not impact gentrification and exacerbate segregation. The campaign estimates that the median benefit would be $4800 per year, but that certainly wouldn’t allow a family, following Booker’s own personal narrative, to move into a gentrified area with good schools and opportunity to increase their tax credit.  I can just imagine the outcry from existing communities about families moving to their areas to expand their tax credits.  They would be changing the name of that website to NOT Next Door!

The exciting thing has to be that the door is opening for tenants and affordable housing to be at the center of a political campaign waged against an upscale condo developer now living in public housing in the White House.  I like that contrast.  Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren also have housing proposals of interest, and with Booker putting his bet on the table, we can bet the others are going to have to match that ante as well, so the odds of something happening increases, if any of them are able to beat Trump’s current lease on the presidency.

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Please enjoy Ohio by Cherry Glazerr.

Thanks to KABF.

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Fighting the NIMBYs on Affordable Housing

New Orleans City Council Meeting 05.23.2019 on housing development in the Bywater neighborhood.

New Orleans     Sadly, it’s not just an aberration in my own neighborhood where bizarrely the “not in my back yard” crowd fought fiercely to block the return of affordable housing to a long established Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) site.  It seems to be almost everywhere in big American cities with increasingly entitled, gentrifying faux-liberal populations.

In a small victory, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-0 with the uptown councilperson taking a powder, on a so-called “compromise” allowing the project to move forward with a slightly smaller footprint but at least holding on to the more than 80 affordable units that included slightly more than 50 market rate apartments.   The district councilwoman had been touting embarrassing and ridiculous proposals to try to pander to the NIMBY crowd that included some of the neighborhood, real-estate dominated civic associations.  One of the more bizarre had been an argument that she was for the number of affordable units, but wanted them spread all over town.  You can hear the dog whistle from here, can’t you?

Let’s be clear.  Affordable housing is an issue in New Orleans.  Repopulating African-American families in neighborhoods is also an issue for me and for people who care about the city post-Katrina, as well as diversity of race and income in neighborhoods like Bywater where I live that were solid multi-racial working class and lower income areas when we moved here decades ago.  To save face, when I can only believe that she couldn’t get any votes, our councilwoman pasted together a fig leaf compromise that allowed some of the NIMBYs say in the design of the project to try to salvage their claims about “neighborhood character” and “green space” as something other than hard core class and race bias.  Hopefully, this committee will not kowtow to this small entitled group.  The highlight for me was reading that another councilman following the vote, essentially chided the projects opponents saying that they needed to really look deeply into their real motivations. Amen!

More depressing was reading that the pretend-progressive California legislature scuttled a bill that would have repealed restrictive zoning for single-family housing near transit stops in order to allow lower income families more access to jobs and services.  The Times columnist reporting on this normally writes about tech issues, but the headline was “Nimby Liberals Make Cities Unlivable,” and he quoted George W. Bush’s comments about “catastrophic success” from the Iraq war.  What a double-shot to the gut!

City after city in the US, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and, OK, all around the world are fencing out people to create enclaves for the rich and white and forgetting the rest of what makes cities work.  Our back yards have no value without people, and people have to be our priority.  Lots of people, not just a few.

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Please enjoy Hamish Anderson’s What You Do To Me.

Thanks to KABF.

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