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With The Pressure On, Housing Primed for New Hampshire Debate

After a disastrous presidential caucus in Iowa earlier this week riddled with technical meltdowns, prolonged reporting times and calls for recanvassing of the state, all eyes are now on New Hampshire as candidates gather for the eighth Democratic Primary debate. 

Tonight’s debate, held just four days before the Granite State’s own primary, will be an important forum for discussing the nation’s most pressing issues and jumpstart support for candidates lagging in the polls. To no surprise, a recent poll found that New Hampshire voters want more discussion from candidates on domestic policy issues and counted housing among the top 10 issues that must be discussed. 

In October, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu released a comprehensive plan to tackle the state’s housing shortage. The plan’s recommendations focus on providing solutions that would increase the supply of new affordable housing while simultaneously eliminating local practices that raise the cost of development. In New Hampshire, housing vacancy rates land near 1 percent across the state while only 65 apartment homes are available per 100 renters (those who make 50 percent of the area medium income). Gov. Sununu’s plan suggests a menu of economic-based development incentives that municipalities could offer. These incentives would offset the losses associated with the development of below-market-rate housing, thereby encouraging greater participation by housing developers. 

Of the seven candidates participating in tonight’s debate, only Vice President Joe Biden has yet to address the housing shortage gripping the nation. Biden is also the race’s only Democratic candidate without a comprehensive housing platform. Last month, Biden told audiences in Nevada that no renter will pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Such a pledge can take the form of many solutions, including the renter’s tax credit proposed by Senator Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) now defunct presidential campaign. While well intended, renter’s tax credit proposals have unintended consequences that could make housing more unaffordable. Tonight’s debate could mark an opportunity for Biden to share his vision with state voters desperately in need of a housing fix. 

With housing as such a pivotal issue for New Hampshire voters, other candidates may see an opportunity to get ahead of the frontrunner Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) recently gained the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester’s daily newspaper, while Mayor Pete Buttigieg has won the support of Jim Donchess, Mayor of Nashua. These are key endorsements from the state’s two largest cities currently crippled with shrinking housing affordability and limited residential development.  

Moderators should be discouraged from reverting back to the flavor-of-the-week-style questions we have seen in past debates including: the acquittal of President Trump, the debate requirements change, the snafu in the Hawkeye state or the future of its dated caucus system. The National Apartment Association (NAA) implores moderators to focus on voter needs and encourages candidates to break through the redundancy of past debates to discuss what matters most. New Hampshire voters demand solutions to the bread and butter issues that will have lasting impact on their lives, most especially those that target the state’s growing housing affordability crisis.