Ben Carson is on a mission to shred the federal housing safety net. As secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Carson has actively undermined desegregation and LGBT protections in government-subsidized housing, and has proposed raising rents threefold for many families. The Trump administration’s approach to housing policy would be comical if it didn’t have real effects on real people: Trump picked his personal event planner, who had no relevant experience, to run the biggest regional housing office in HUD. This allowed Trump to gut affordable housing in New York and New Jersey, the very same place his son-in-law Jared Kushner illegally skirted rent-stabilization rules.
In truth, both parties have been terrible on housing policy for many years. Barack Obama favored the interests of bankers over homeowners at the behest of centrist advisers like Timothy Geithner. Powerful banks, which in general became even larger and more powerful after the financial crisis they caused, bought up houses on the cheap and then offered them for rent.
Nine years later, there are persistent racial wealth gaps, driven in large parts by gaps in homeownership rates. More households are renting than ever before in modern history—particularly the key members of the progressive coalition. Fifty-eight percent of black households and 54 percent of Latino households rent their homes. Two-thirds of Americans under age 30 rent. Unmarried women are twice as likely to rent than own.
Recent analysis has suggested that elections in the modern era often hinge on progressive-base turnout, and that balance-tipping base is comprised mostly of renters. Yet elected leaders have paid little attention to housing, and even less to renters. That’s been horrendous policy—and also terrible politics.
Lots of people get screwed by bad housing policy
Consigned to the rental market indefinitely, tens of millions of Americans are locked out of a path to economic mobility. There are more cost-burdened renters (meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent) in the United States today than there were uninsured people before the Affordable Care Act. In the richest country in the world, a full one-third of American households are cost-burdened, including nearly half of the 111 million Americans living in rental housing. A full 60 percent of middle- and working-class renters with annual incomes under $75,000 experience cost burdens.