Bernie Sanders, in Las Vegas, Previews Plan for Affordable Housing
LAS VEGAS — Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a $2.5 trillion housing policy plan on Saturday that would include ending homelessness and limiting rent increases across the country by imposing a national rent control standard.
Mr. Sanders said that over the next decade, his plan would expand public housing, increase the availability of affordable housing and cap annual rent increases nationally, regardless of income, at no more than one and a half times the rate of inflation or 3 percent, whichever is higher. His campaign said he would be releasing his full plan within the next month.
“We have an affordable housing crisis in Nevada, in Vermont and all over this country that must be addressed,” he told an audience of about 100 people at a union hall in Las Vegas, which was hit hard by the housing crisis a decade ago. “For too long, this is one of those issues that we just don’t talk about.”
This is the second time in the past 15 days that Mr. Sanders’s campaign has teased a policy rollout without releasing an actual proposal. Late last month, the Vermont senator said at a health care-focused event in Florence, S.C., that he planned to introduce legislation that would eliminate all medical debt. His campaign followed his pronouncement with a one-page overview of what the plan would entail, including canceling $81 billion of existing medical debt. The campaign also said at the time that a plan would be released within a month.
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The series of soft rollouts underscore just how policy focused the Democratic presidential primary has become. Led by Senator Elizabeth Warren, the field has been introducing policy plans at a pace that at times has been frenetic.
Mr. Sanders has long advocated for affordable housing, even during his days as mayor of Burlington, Vt., in the 1980s. But though he suggested housing was not a front-burner topic for many politicians, other 2020 candidates have also introduced housing policies.
Mr. Warren and Julián Castro, the former housing secretary under President Barack Obama, have already released their own housing proposals. Senator Kamala Harris has also introduced a bill that would allow overburdened renters to access a sliding tax credit based on factors like income and cost of rent.
Mr. Sanders said he would pay for the plan by instituting a wealth tax on the top one-tenth of 1 percent of American households, or about 175,000 households, but provided little else in the way of specific details.
During his address, part of a weekend swing through Nevada that also featured a rally at the University of Nevada, Reno, on Friday, Mr. Sanders also attacked President Trump and attempted to draw a contrast between his childhood and the president’s more privileged upbringing.
“Unlike Donald Trump, I did not grow up in a wealthy family or live in some fancy house,” he said, a thought he has expressed before. In a rare occurrence, Mr. Sanders also mentioned his mother during his address, saying she had always wanted to move out of the three-and-a-half room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, where they lived when he was a boy.
“My mother’s dream was that someday we would move out of that rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn and we would own a home of our own,” he said. “My mother died young, and her dream was never fulfilled. But during her life, at least our family was always able to afford a roof over our heads, because we were living in a rent-controlled building, which meant that for our family and all the other families in our building, rents could not be arbitrarily raised.”
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As with many of his proposals, Mr. Sanders acknowledged that the cost of his housing plan would be steep.
“I have no doubt that within five minutes after this speech is made public, my critics will be jumping up and down as is usually the case and they will tell you that the plan that I am releasing is expensive,” he said. “And the truth is it is expensive.”
Mr. Sanders also promised to commit $32 billion over five years to end homelessness, and provide outreach services for people experiencing chronic homelessness. He did not say how he would end it; his campaign said more details would be in his full proposal.
Astead W. Herndon contributed reporting from New York.
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