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Housing Takes Backseat to Candidate Squabble

Seven presidential hopefuls vying for the Democratic nomination met in Los Angeles last night for the PBS NewsHour/POLITICO Presidential Debate.

At times, it appeared that nothing was off limits for discussion during last night’s sixth and final democratic primary debate of 2019. 

As expected, candidates pounced on Iowa frontrunner, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, after photos of his lavish Napa Valley fundraising event were released to the public. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who accumulated the debate’s second-highest speaking time, found herself leading multiple Buttigieg-targeted attacks, criticizing both his level of executive experience and his track record of political campaigning. Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) sparred briefly over competing healthcare plans, the environment and enthusiastic hand gestures, while Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) expertly addressed one difficult question regarding her age. The stage’s two private citizens, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang, watched quietly from the flanks, failing to take advantage of the smaller candidate pool.

Despite there being plenty of discourse, no real time was dedicated to housing policy, let alone any domestic policy. Moderators did not ask about housing affordability or what the candidates would do to solve Los Angeles’ housing shortage that will require 12,000 new apartment homes annually. Mayor Buttigieg briefly addressed poverty and homelessness in the United States, suggesting wage increases as a solution to bring more families off the streets and into homes. Still, the most detrimental proposals, like Sen. Sanders’ national rent cap or Sen. Warren’s just-cause eviction standard, were never discussed. Coupled with the windfall of policies that have come from each campaign in the last month, housing was poised for a big discussion that never landed.

Hours before the debate, Sen. Klobuchar released her standalone housing plan; however, the plan went unmentioned amid the infighting that occurred on stage. The debate would have been a fine opportunity for Sen. Klobuchar to promote the components of her plan and distinguish herself as a candidate for housing.

Sen. Sanders and Vice President Biden both discussed climate change and what solutions they would pursue to mitigate its impact. Although buildings were not mentioned specifically, both candidates alluded to the intensity with which their administrations would focus on this issue, Sen. Sanders going so far as redirecting the revenue of the global arms trade to fund climate change initiatives. We urge Sen. Sanders and Vice President Biden to ensure that federal resources are available and accessible to developers and operators seeking compliance with energy efficiency mandates.

For the candidates not participating in the debate, yesterday still provided an opportunity to show their relevancy to voters. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro toured Los Angeles’ Skid Row to learn more about homelessness and promote his own housing plan. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the day to introduce his campaign’s second policy platform on healthcare. Just weeks earlier, his campaign released its housing platform in Stockton, Calif. 

The housing industry urges CNN and the Des Moines Register, hosts of the next Democratic Primary Debate on January 14, to refocus the discussion on housing affordability. The lack of debate surrounding the issue is disheartening given the significance of the crisis at hand and how vital solving it will be for housing providers and residents of the United States.

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.