Joe Biden has just announced that California Senator Kamala Harris will be his running mate for the upcoming 2020 election. A long-term advocate for low-income families, Harris is a firm believer that all Americans deserve affordable housing. Here's what the Kamala Harris housing plan entails.
Building more affordable housing
The affordable housing crisis has long existed in the U.S., and Harris wants to tackle it head on. It's estimated that the U.S. needs anywhere from 7.2 to 12 million additional affordable housing units to make a dent in the current crisis and prevent more Americans from slipping into homelessness. To this end, Harris has pledged to invest over $135 billion to build and maintain hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units.
Over 550,000 people are experiencing homelessness across the country, including more than 150,000 children, and a lack of affordable housing is largely to blame. That's why Harris will be fighting to pass her Ending Homelessness Act, which seeks to provide billions in relief funding for federal housing programs. Specifically, the Act will finance the construction of additional housing units, provide housing vouchers to those at risk of homelessness, and provide assistance for state and local governments to coordinate their supportive housing and health care initiatives so they reach those most in need.
Offering rent relief
Not everyone who struggles to pay rent will risk homelessness, but for many households, rent is still a major burden. Enter Harris' Rent Relief Act, which is designed to help keep families in their homes by offering a refundable tax credit for renters who spend more than 30% of their gross income on rent, including utilities. Refundable tax credits can do more than just reduce a taxpayer's IRS liability to $0; they put money back in people's pockets. Harris' goal here is to make it easier for families to pay their rent. And as part of the Act, people who live in government-subsidized housing will also be allowed to claim the value of one month's rent as a tax credit.
On a related note, Harris is proposing the LIFT (Livable Incomes for Families Today) Act, which will give low and middle earners a tax credit of up to $500 per month, or $6,000 per year. Though this is not specifically a housing initiative, it could help millions of Americans better afford their homes.
Making homeownership possible for Black households
Black households have historically struggled to own homes. In fact, it's estimated that by 2053, the bottom 50% of Black households’ liabilities will equal or exceed the assets they hold. And today, 73% of white households are homeowners, whereas the Black homeownership rate is just 45%.
In an effort to bridge the wealth gap between Black and white households, Harris is looking to invest $100 billion to provide homebuying assistance to families in red-lined communities (neighborhoods identified as higher risk from a lending standpoint). She's also looking to amend credit reporting practices so that lower-income households have an easier time boosting their credit scores and getting approved for mortgages.
Clearly, Kamala Harris has a in-depth housing plan that will hopefully work to address the existing homelessness crisis and prevent it from worsening. Given the number of people who are desperate for housing assistance, it will be interesting to see how voters respond to Harris as a candidate and leader.