Warren introduces housing bill to address affordable home shortage, land use restrictions

by Francis Monfort26 Sep 2018

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has introduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, legislation which proposes investments to build homes, the elimination of certain zoning rules, assistance to first-time homebuyers in formerly redlined areas, and relief to families still struggling after the 2008 crash.

“Rural housing in the US is falling apart. Decades of federal discrimination have excluded generations of Blacks from homeownership. Housing costs for everyone, everywhere, are skyrocketing – while America's wealthiest families shield billions from taxes. I have a plan to fix it,” Warren said in a tweet.

The proposal would build 3 million new homes in 10 years, bring down monthly rents by 10%, and create 1.5 million jobs, Warren said.

By leveraging federal funding, the bill would invest $445 billion in the Housing Trust Fund to build, rehabilitate, and operate up to 2.1 million homes for low-income families, among other investments.

The bill also puts $10 billion into a new competitive grant program that communities can use to build infrastructure, parks, roads, or schools. To be eligible, local governments must reform land use rules that restrict construction of new affordable housing.

Through two targeted programs, the proposal would also provide down payment grants to first-time homebuyers living in formerly redlined or officially segregated areas and invest $2 billion to support borrowers with negative equity on their mortgages due to the financial crisis.

The bill also extends the Community Reinvestment Act to cover more financial institutions and strengthens sanctions against institutions that fail to follow the rules.

Warren proposed modifying estate tax thresholds to fully offset the costs under the bill. Under the bill, tax thresholds would be reverted to their levels at the end of the George W. Bush administration. More progressive rates above those thresholds would also be instituted to apply to approximately 10,000 of the wealthiest families in the country.