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Frontrunner Poised to Discuss Housing Plan at S.C. Debate

In August, a candidate for President of the United States stopped in Greenville, S.C., to speak to a group of supporters. During the rally, the candidate spoke of a supply-side solution, called a housing trust fund (HTF), which can be a valuable tool for the development of new affordable housing. Depending on its requirements, an HTF allocates public funds to help defray development costs as well as leverage access to private capital to keep a project afloat. The candidate had been vital to the establishment of a local HTF that has helped support the construction of more than 3,000 affordable housing units. 

The candidate then discussed two additional policies that they said would lift Greenville out of its housing crunch. The candidate suggested the adoption of rent control and mandatory inclusionary zoning proposals. However, both of these policies have been shown to discourage and disincentivize the construction of new housing, artificially distort the housing market and raise the cost of housing for market-rate renters. That candidate, whose platform includes a nationwide rent cap proposal, is Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Sen. Sanders has trounced his fellow candidates in the last three early-voting states’ contests, appealing to each states’ vocal progressive core. Now, he is eyeing South Carolina voters in advance of the upcoming primary. 

After escaping what could have been a far worse beating by his peers at the Nevada debate, Sen. Sanders likely will face a renewed assault on the Palmetto State’s debate stage. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg found himself at the receiving end of a coordinated attack by all of the candidates that has left his political viability in question. 

With 44 pledged delegates so far, and 1,991 needed to secure the nomination, Sen. Sanders is in the driver’s seat to be the Democratic Party’s candidate ahead of Super Tuesday, where Sanders leads in delegate-rich California and Texas. With only 13 pledged delegates after three contests, former Vice President Joe Biden will hope that his traction in South Carolina maintains, which has him at 3 percentage points ahead of Sen. Sanders. 

Sen. Sanders will likely defer to his policy platforms in the face of confrontation during the debate. Given his interest in South Carolina’s housing needs, this debate may give Sen. Sanders the opportunity to promote misguided policies like rent control and inclusionary zoning. If this happens, Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg, the only candidates who have not publicly endorsed the adoption of rent control in any form, must pounce on the self-defeating nature of these initiatives. Even former candidates have highlighted the adverse impact of rent control, including Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) who said, “National rent control is more of a misguided slogan than a policy, and it would result in fewer affordable homes being built or preserved.”

It is critical that our next president recognizes that solutions which are intended to help cost-burdened renters in the short-term, such as rent control and inclusionary zoning, ultimately do more harm than good. We must work together to invest in long-term, sustainable strategies that help cost-burdened renters maintain long-term stability through housing subsidies and make housing more affordable to build in the cities and towns where its most needed. 

The National Apartment Association will provide ongoing coverage of the 2020 Presidential Election Cycle highlighting its importance to the rental housing industry. Stay tuned for more spotlights on candidates’ housing policies, debate analysis and much more. For more information on the 2020 Presidential Election, please contact NAA Manager of Public Policy, Sam Gilboard