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Here’s Where All The Republican Presidential Candidates (Probably) Stand On Housing

Original article published on Bisnow by Dees Stribling ( available here

Bill Weld speaking into microphone
Bill Weld Photo by Wikimedia, Marc Nozell

Previously, Bisnow detailed where the Democratic candidates for the presidency in 2020 stand on housing affordability, which involves a great variety of policy proposals. But what about the Republicans? Despite the strength of the incumbent when it comes to renomination, there are currently three other Republican candidates vying for the job. Their odds might be long now, but since the 2016 election, U.S. presidential politics has been turned on its head, and nothing is quite certain anymore.  The official positions of the Republican candidates, as reflected by their campaign sites — even President Donald Trump’s — have little to say about housing. Even so, most of them have made statements of one kind or another reflecting how their administrations would make housing policy, or have clearly stated a political philosophy that would tend to affect their views on housing: Mostly, the less government involvement, the better. As yet, none of the campaigns have responded to Bisnow queries on the matter.

Mark Sanford, whose background includes co-founding Norton and Sanford Real Estate Investment in the early 1990s, represented South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives later in that decade, and served as governor of the state from 2003 to 2011. Despite national embarrassment during a colorful sex scandal in 2009, Sanford finished his term as governor and then returned to the House in 2013, serving until early this year. At the top of candidate Sanford’s list of priorities is controlling the national debt. Toward that end, he doesn’t believe taxes are too low. “I believe government spends too much,” he says on his website. He doesn’t say whether that specifically applies to spending on housing policy. As a deficit hawk in Congress, Sanford’s votes were usually against appropriations bills that included funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, though there is no evidence that he singled out spending on housing as the reason. Rather, he has been consistently opposed to higher non-defense spending more often than not.

President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign website has no official policy platform on affordable housing or the U.S. housing crisis.  The campaign website lists two achievements in housing, including the formalization of a plan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to convert residential properties it owns into transitional housing for people recovering from opioid addiction (the plan was originally kicked off during the last year of the Obama administration). Also, the president proclaimed April 2018 as National Fair Housing Month. The Trump administration does, however, have a record on affordable housing, mostly as it relates to HUD. The administration has consistently proposed less money for the agency. For fiscal year 2020, for example, the budget proposed by the administration totaled $44.1B in discretionary funding, down 16.4% from FY 2019. Among other things, the 2020 proposal would eliminate the Public Housing Capital Fund, which is used to maintain and improve public housing buildings, Curbed reports. It also would have made a 38% cut to the Public Housing Operating Fund, which is used to fund the basic operations of public housing. HUD’s budget for fiscal 2020 hasn’t been finalized yet, but if history is a guide, Congress will authorize more than the president’s proposal, since that has happened each year since Trump took office. The administration also wants to overhaul the country’s mortgage-finance system, first by ending the conservatorship by the federal government of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but also by undertaking a variety of reforms to help reprivatize the U.S. residential mortgage market. Since Congress will need to sign off on many of those proposals, their fate is unclear, MarketWatch reports. A signature piece of his housing policy is the opportunity zone program, which passed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. HUD Secretary Ben Carson has toured the country championing the program as a way of spurring development, including new housing, in underserved areas. Critics, however, point out that the program doesn’t provide any funding for housing, and has helped accelerate gentrification in areas that were already seeing private investment without a tax benefit.

Bill Weld served as the 68th governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. Before that, he was a U.S. Attorney General for the District of Massachusetts. In 2016, he ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket, but returned to the Republican Party in 2019 and announced his candidacy for the presidency. Weld’s official campaign website is silent on the U.S. housing crisis and has no stated affordable housing policy. He hasn’t come out specifically against rent control, for instance, though his statements about state control of economic matters more than hint that he would be against anything of the kind.  His focus on the U.S. national debt also would tend to indicate that he favors private sector solutions to housing problems, and not more federal spending. “We need the opposite of socialism,” Weld said in a speech shortly before he announced he was running against Trump in 2020. “In the federal budget, the two most important tasks are to cut spending and to cut taxes — and spending comes first.” Weld has acknowledged the seriousness of the housing problem, however. Recently, Weld participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by the nonprofit Housing Action NH in New Hampshire, and talked about the effects of economic inequality in America and the importance of social cohesion.  Weld also responded to questions on affordable housing and ending homelessness. He emphasized the federal government’s role in providing affordable housing, and voiced his support for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the historic tax credit. He also stresses the role of the private sector in affordable housing, especially nonprofits. “One of the things I did in office was to contract out government services to nonprofits,” Weld said, including housing for special needs residents.

Joe Walsh, a radio talk show host and one-term congressman from Illinois, serving from 2011 to 2013, also has released no specific housing proposals. In fact, his campaign website focuses entirely on one thing: being against Donald Trump. As a member of Congress, Walsh identified with the Tea Party movement and was highly critical of President Barack Obama and his policies. More recently, he has made it clear he disdains the idea that housing is a human right.

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