|The need for affordable housing is often absent as a discussion topic in presidential debates and typically does not play a major role in the candidates’ policy platforms. However, this campaign season, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families sought to raise housing’s profile by hosting the New Hampshire Housing Summit on October 16 and inviting presidential candidates to address an audience comprised of representatives of national housing organizations and those involved in the New Hampshire affordable housing industry.
Seven presidential candidates—Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former New York Governor George Pataki, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky—each individually addressed the Summit to discuss how they would address the affordable housing crisis if elected president.
Governor O’Malley said that as President he would double the size of the Housing Credit and the Community Development Block Grant. He also called for increased investment in public housing and derided HOME funding cuts. He argued that there are few things as important as housing and that the lack of affordable housing contributes to income inequality. He also stated that it would be a mistake to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Senator Graham credited the New Hampshire Housing Summit with making him more aware of the affordable housing crisis and said that, “[H]ousing is the least talked-about issue on the campaign trail.” He noted that it is appropriate for the federal government to partner with states and the private sector to increase access to affordable housing. He told audience members that HUD’s budget, as part of the discretionary budget, is squeezed due to rising cost of entitlement programs, and discussed his position on curbing mandatory spending.
Governor Huckabee maintained that housing often doesn’t get attention because it is difficult for people to understand the breadth of the problem if their own housing is affordable to them. He said over-regulation contributes to the housing crisis, citing the Dodd-Frank financial reform law as part of the problem.
Governor Christie maintained that there is a tension between environmentalists looking to preserve green space in their communities and affordable housing advocates that would use that space to increase housing supply. He stated his support for public-private partnerships to address the affordable housing need and noted that his state of New Jersey has an excellent relationship with HUD, having worked closely with the Department on Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
Like Governor Huckabee, Governor Pataki also pointed to over-regulation as a primary cause of the affordable housing crisis. He said that affordable housing finance should be provided by private sector actors and administered by states.
Governor Gilmore opposed the federal government’s involvement in affordable housing activities, supporting a strong private sector approach to the problem.
Senator Paul supported limited federal government involvement in affordable housing, saying it should only be for those who cannot help themselves, and assistance should be temporary.