Bloomberg unveils plan to tackle America’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis

Bloomberg unveils plan to tackle America’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis
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Bloomberg unveils plan to tackle America’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis

As president, Mike Bloomberg will treat homelessness as a national emergency, double annual federal spending, and cut homelessness in half by 2025. The plan guarantees rental assistance to all extremely low-income Americans and aims to create hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing units.

In a speech at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on Friday Jan. 31, 2020, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg announced his plan to tackle the nation’s housing affordability crisis and ensure that a stable home is within reach of all Americans across the country. Mike’s plan is a clear, targeted set of strategies aimed at addressing the dual challenges of skyrocketing rent burdens and soaring rates of homelessness.

Mike’s first priority will be to guarantee rental assistance for those that need it most. He will also cut homelessness in half by 2025, while alleviating the nation’s severe shortage of affordable housing through robust new strategies to stimulate new and affordable housing development. Today’s announcement builds upon Mike’s remarks in Stockton, CA, last December, where he pledged to address the nation’s severe shortage of affordable housing, raise the incomes of low-wage workers, share the gains of economic growth more equitably, and take immediate steps to end poverty.

“More and more American families are struggling to pay the rent, and they are getting no help at all from President Trump. The president said that fixing homelessness would be ‘so easy with competence’. Of course, competence is not his strong suit – but the truth is: he’s done nothing to help people who are homeless or build more affordable housing. Instead he has slashed federal housing budgets and rules that prevent racial discrimination – while leaving struggling families out in the cold,” said Mike Bloomberg. “Our plan includes a major change in rental assistance to guarantee it for those who need it most and ensure, for the first time, that the neediest households do not get stuck on waiting lists. And as we help more Americans make ends meet, we will get to work building the millions of affordable homes we need to address this crisis.”

Michael Bloomberg, Democratic Presidential candidate March 17, 2020 Illinois Democratic Primary election.

Michael Bloomberg, Democratic Presidential candidate March 17, 2020 Illinois Democratic Primary election.

Mike’s Housing Affordability and Homelessness Strategy

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Currently, only one in four households that qualify for federally-funded housing vouchers actually get them — millions of eligible applicants sit on waiting lists that are years-long or so full they are closed to new applicants. Mike’s plan promises to end housing insecurity for the lowest-income Americans and will guarantee housing assistance for all households at or below 30% Area Median Income (AMI). Mike will also ensure that income and racial diversity remain in a neighborhood over time by supporting families who want to be able to stay where they call home.

Mike’s plan addresses the crisis in our country that has nearly 600,000 Americans currently spending the night on the street or in a temporary shelter — a third of whom are families with young children. 36 percent are people with mental illness, substance use disorder, or criminal records that prevent them from obtaining housing, and 44% have a disability. Mike will act swiftly to help the most vulnerable Americans in this crisis. He will also help the estimated 42,000 to 85,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives living on tribal lands who are experiencing homelessness, as well as the estimated 15% of the country’s homeless population in America’s small towns and rural communities.

HOW MIKE WILL GET IT DONE

Mike knows that affordable housing is an essential component of dignity and economic opportunity and is key to strengthening our urban communities. His plan is grounded in a stark reality — incomes have stagnated while rental costs have soared. Mike will take immediate steps to ensure that Americans are no longer burdened by exorbitant housing costs. His plan addresses Americans who have been historically underserved – communities of color, women and families, Native Americans, veterans, and seniors – by removing barriers and addressing systemic challenges that have long prevented generations of Americans from accumulating housing wealth.

1. Mike will guarantee rental assistance for extremely low-income Americans
Mike’s plan will work to put affordable housing within reach of all Americans, ensuring that they can achieve an economic foundation without putting an excessive part of their income toward the roof over their head.

Mike will prioritize support for those who need it most. Mike will guarantee housing vouchers to all Americans at or below 30% of the area median income and help families stay in their homes by funding emergency financial assistance, expanding federal grants to cities that implement effective eviction prevention programs, and creating pilot programs for tenant counseling and legal-advice services. He will also raise the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and increase the Child Tax Credit for low-income Americans, families, and hard-pressed areas.

Mike will remove barriers to housing access and safeguard against housing discrimination. Mike will recruit more landlords into the voucher system and reduce bureaucratic processes. He will use regulation and incentives to curb discrimination by landlords, so that recipients are protected regardless of income source, sexual orientation, or immigration status. He will also establish navigator services to help tenants find and secure housing.

2. Mike will cut homelessness by half in four years, from nearly 600,000 to less than 300,000
Mike will treat homelessness as a national emergency. He will deploy immediate and unprecedented federal resources to tackle the homelessness crisis in America and make clear to city leaders across America that reducing homelessness and treating people with dignity and respect must be central to their agendas.

Mike will ensure every American has a stable roof over their head. Mike will make homelessness a national priority – doubling federal spending on homelessness from under $3 billion to $6 billion annually. He will increase federal support for housing-first strategies and provide housing search support and short-term rental assistance to stop homelessness before it starts.

Mike will expand proven housing-first strategies to support and stabilize homeless communities. Mike will promote rapid-rehousing and permanent supportive housing, providing stability to the chronically homeless to address issues such as substance use disorder and mental health services where needed and serving as a bridge to rental assistance. He will also integrate homeless support with critical “wrap-around” services and expand federal grants to cities that implement effective homelessness prevention programs.

3. Alleviate the nation’s severe shortage of affordable housing, break down barriers to building in places where people want to live, and ensure that housing is accessible to those who need it
Mike knows we cannot solve the affordability crisis in our cities without more housing and will get to work building the millions of new affordable units we need to address this crisis.

Mike will increase the supply of affordable housing units nationally — lowering costs for middle and low-income residents. Mike will significantly increase funding for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and enhance its value. He will prioritize new transportation funding for areas that have undertaken progressive zoning reform and reward municipalities that support affordable housing development in neighborhoods with good schools, transportation, and economic opportunity. He will also provide the needed capital to maintain our public housing by streamlining the administration of the RAD program and increasing funding to the National Housing Trust Fund.
Mike will improve the existing housing stock to revitalize communities, lower operating costs, and lower carbon emissions. Mike will provide resources to help homeowners, building owners, and tenants upgrade their homes, to lower operating costs, save energy, and eliminate pollution. He will increase funding for energy retrofits and ensure that the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is fully funded and designed to encourage efficiency improvements. Mike will also provide funding for seniors to modify their homes to be more accessible, allowing them to stay in their communities.

4. Help renters become owners and ensure that no one is denied access on the basis of their race
Mike recognizes that generations of discriminatory public policy — such as redlining — have prevented millions of Americans from accumulating housing wealth and left them concentrated in high-poverty, low-opportunity neighborhoods.
Mike will help renters become homeowners. Mike will pilot targeted assistance to help people afford down payments for new homes, provide federal matching funds to offer all residents of the 100 Communities down-payment assistance, and broaden access to basic financial services. And with the goal of supporting one million new Black American homeowners, Mike will address inequities in wealth and home ownership, and enforce laws designed to ensure that developers, landlords, and lenders act fairly.

5. Help local governments cut through red tape and empower cities to enact change
Mike knows that government must work together at all levels to solve the housing crisis.
Mike will promote coordination between all levels of government and stakeholders to address the housing crisis. Mike will build on President Obama’s “Strong Cities, Strong Communities” initiative by driving an interagency effort from the White House and support efforts to widen inclusive participation in decision-making, require participating cities to collect data to improve our ability to respond to the crisis and invest in data and technology infrastructure to help cities collaborate, spend money wisely, and invest in what works.

As Mayor of New York City, Mike led one of the nation’s most ambitious affordable housing plans, implementing several initiatives that have been replicated in cities around the country. During his tenure, street homelessness decreased by 28% and more than 170,000 affordable homes were built or preserved. Mike has also worked in communities across the country — from Mobile, AL and Atlanta, GA to Syracuse, NY and Seattle, Washington — to address housing stability and homelessness, and support affordable housing.

Mike’s plan directly combats the destructive policies being implemented by the Trump Administration to severely restrict housing availability and decrease affordability. The Trump administration has also pushed for the relaxation of the Fair Housing Act’s anti-discrimination Disparate Impact Rule, which will make it more difficult for a person or entity to bring a suit against discriminatory housing practices. Just this week, Trump’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary moved to roll back an Obama-era anti-discrimination policy that incentivizes cities to combat housing segregation. And Trump himself is no stranger to discriminatory housing policy: in the 1970s, he was sued by the Justice Department for discriminatory housing practices in 39 of his New York City properties.

Read more about Mike’s plan here.

ADDITIONAL QUOTES

“If there’s any region that’s ground zero for the affordable housing crisis, it’s the Bay Area,” said London Breed, Mayor of San Francisco. “And it’s not just low-income earners that need more options, it’s middle-income families here, too. We need to make it easier to cut red tape and get new housing off the ground faster to increase supply and lower costs. And we need to think strategically about how to build new housing near public transportation.”

“Homelessness isn’t just a problem; it’s a symptom. The symptom of unaffordable housing, of income inequality, of institutional racism, of addiction, untreated illness; and decades of dis-investment. These are the problems. And if we’re going to fight homelessness, we’ve got to fight them all.”

“I’m glad Mike Bloomberg has made tackling housing affordability and homelessness a key pillar of his vision for America, and it can’t come a moment too soon,” said Mayor Breed. “His plan to treat homelessness as a state of emergency gives the problem the importance it deserves, will go a long way toward mustering the resources we need to get people into permanent supportive housing, and will address underlying issues of mental health that land so many people on the street in the first place. I look forward to working with Mike to tackle these issues, and with him in the White House, I trust we’ll find the support from Washington we need.”

“Creating more affordable housing in Washington, D.C. is my chief concern,” said Washington, D.C. Mayor, Muriel Bowser. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to set specific targets by neighborhood, and dramatically increase affordable housing because of it. I hope more cities will follow our lead, because there are still far too many people in Washington D.C., and in cities across the country, who struggle to afford homes – leaving them chronically unstable or homeless. But cities cannot address this challenge alone. They must have a strong partner in the federal government. Mike Bloomberg gets this and I’m glad that he’s committed to addressing the affordability and homelessness crisis, head on, from day one. I’m especially pleased with his ambitious plan to guarantee rental assistance to those who are most in need. This is how government is supposed to work and I’m glad to see a candidate who knows it.”

Sister Paulette Lomonaco, former Executive Director of Good Shepherd Service said, “When we talk about the housing crisis, we need more supportive housing in the mix, in particular, for young people leaving foster care or otherwise homeless. There are far too many young people out there struggling, but with care and intervention, we can put them on a path to a fulfilling future. We need to stop the cycle of youth homelessness and poverty once and for all. We need a partner in government who will make this a priority, and I can’t think of a better partner than Mike Bloomberg. I worked with Mike for years when he was mayor and I know that if there’s anyone who can make my wish a reality, it’s him.”

“The issues of housing and homelessness are near and dear to my heart,” said Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs. “There’s no one-size fits all solution here, and Mike’s plan is so strong because he knows that. He understands that we need a holistic look at cities, and that we need to put home prices within reach of the average American – and pay workers more so they can afford them. It’s just one piece of a larger strategy, but one that will go a long way toward elevating people out of poverty, closing the racial wealth gap, and creating a more just and compassionate society.”

“All across our county, millions of hardworking Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water and pay their rent. Mike will remove the barriers to good, quality housing and give families the resources and support they need to stave off eviction and homelessness. As president he’ll ensure that all of our most vulnerable families will have access to rental assistance vouchers, giving them new housing choices they don’t have today. And he’ll make sure that everybody has the support they need by funding eviction prevention programs, legal services for tenants and owners, and so much more. His plan will finally solve our incremental and piecemeal approach to housing insecurity. Mike will move quickly on this and he will get the job done,” said Rafael E. Cestero, former commissioner, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“Mike’s plan will do more than just throw money at the nation’s housing problem. His plan has the real potential to put an end to the housing affordability crisis and ensure that a stable home is within reach for more Americans,” Jennifer Jones Austin, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), said. “Mike aims to attack the root causes of homelessness and housing insecurity for the lowest-income Americans by increasing the supply and accessibility of affordable housing. Done right, these solutions will prove much more effective than shelters and band-aid solution services.”

“We have a housing affordability crisis in this country that disproportionately harms Americans living in urban areas, particularly communities of color. For nearly one in four families, 50% of their income goes to pay for housing. This means millions of Americans are struggling each month to pay their rent or mortgage. And, over the long term, high housing costs are worsening economic inequality and widening the racial equity gap. Mike Bloomberg has outlined a transformational and solutions-oriented plan to end this crisis and ensure every American can afford their home. We need Mike’s leadership in the White House to get it done,” Geoffrey Canada, Founder of Harlem Children’s Zone said.

“The housing crisis is a local and national issue that must be attacked smartly, strategically and immediately,” President of Mercy Housing Doug Shoemaker said. “It makes no sense to wait until people are homeless before offering help. We need to close the front door on homelessness and Mike’s bold voucher plan will make a big difference to housing insecure families.”

Ray Hanania

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