Housing Demanded Attention at The Debate. It Received None.
The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden can only be described, as CNN’s Jake Tapper aptly put it, “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” Instead of civil discourse on issues critically important to the American people, both candidates sought out more suppressive tactics, like talking over each other and ignoring the conventions of the debate. Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to rein-in the candidates, at times seeming as exhausted as the viewers at home. What resulted was a 90-minute embarrassment in which the American people became none the wiser to either candidates’ strengths or plans for the presidency.
The U.S. housing industry is more fragile than ever. Housing providers must operate under a temporary eviction halt for nonpayment of rent until the end of the year and face the prospect of a 12-month extension as contemplated in the updated HEROES Act. Meanwhile, Congress has yet to pass robust rental assistance or broad federal business liability protections, leaving the industry overexposed to potential financial losses. New apartment delivery experienced a 12 percent decline over last year and the fewest number of new apartments brought to market in the last five years, amplifying the nationwide housing shortage and widening the affordability gap.
Renters and housing providers lost out during the debate because actual policy discussion was drowned out by erratic behavior. The only mention was brief and tangential as Chris Wallace pressed Biden on his climate plan, specifically his pledge to make the U.S. building stock more energy efficient by 2035. We hope that Biden’s promise to bring Americans together will translate into engagement with stakeholders on all sides to discuss policy solutions. Biden’s climate plan must consider impacts on housing affordability. Unfortunately, he was unable to explain the incentives available to property owners for energy efficient retrofits during the debate.
This week, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris face the monumental challenges of picking up where their bosses left off or conducting a respectful and insightful debate. Given the possibility of future debate cancelations, the Vice Presidential debate will be more important than ever. With less than 30 days till the election, time is running out for either campaign to open up on their strategy to protect rental housing.
The candidates sought clamor over conversation at 2020’s first presidential debate. Critical issues were overlooked to the detriment of America’s renters and housing providers. With few opportunities left to impress their strengths on the American people, the candidates must do better.
The National Apartment Association (NAA) will provide ongoing coverage of the 2020 Presidential Election Cycle highlighting its importance to the rental housing industry. For more information on the 2020 Presidential Election, please contact NAA Manager of Public Policy, Sam Gilboard.