A former U.S. Senator and a former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary combined to urge 2016 presidential candidates to address the issues of a lingering American housing crisis.
In a piece published as a Fox News Opinion earlier this week, Scott Brown, a Republican Senator for Massachusetts from 2010 to 2013 and Henry Cisneros, a Democrat who served as HUD Secretary from 1993 to 1997 during the Clinton Administration, urged those campaigning for next year's presidential election speak about the housing industry's most pressing issues in their campaigns and address what they call a "silent" housing crisis, since it is "largely overlooked by the media and strangely underestimated by our nation's political leaders."
Both Brown and Cisneros currently serve on the executive committee of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families, which officially launched on June 9. Terwilliger, one of the most successful real estate developers, has long been an advocate for housing policy changes.
Candidates talking about the housing crisis on the presidential campaign trail, the authors said, is an excellent way to raise national public awareness and is a step toward finding solutions to the problems surrounding the housing industry, which include rising rents and diminished access to homeownership. Those problems, the authors said, have the nation "mired" in a housing crisis even six years following the official end of the great recession.
"We believe those candidates who credibly address housing on the campaign trail will benefit at the ballot box," Cisneros and Brown said. "After all, there are few issues as fundamentally important to the average voter and that hit closer to home. We urge each of the candidates – Republicans, Democrats, and independents – to make housing central to their campaigns and speak to the twin issues of rental affordability and home ownership access."
The authors point out that the nation's homeownership rate is at its lowest point since the early 1990s and the rate for younger households has fallen to levels it has never seen before. Homeownership rates for minorities have also fallen substantially, "wiping out virtually all of the gains achieved over the past two decades."
Millions of homeowners transitioned from owning to renting after losing their homes to foreclosure since 2008 but now find homeownership out of reach due to a combination of tighter lending standards and years of stagnant incomes, according to Brown and Cisneros. Also, demand for rental housing is growing, causing the price of rents to rise, meaning many Americans are paying unsustainable portions of their incomes on rent and forcing them to forego necessities such as medical care and other essentials. It also makes it impossible for them to save for a down payment for a home, according to the authors. Not only that, but the supply of affordable housing is inadequate to meet the current and anticipated demand in that area.
The housing crisis affects much of America's population and not just the poor, the authors said. Many parents of millennials are concerned with how their sons and daughters who have thousands of dollars in student loan debt will be able to find a place to live amid rising rents and limited access to homeownership.
"While these issues are deeply personal, they also have profound national implications," they said. "Broad access to stable, safe, and affordable housing is a crucial part of the formula for upward mobility and essential for America’s future prosperity. Ensuring such access must be an urgent national priority. As members of different political parties, we believe there is plenty of common ground that can serve as the basis for a bipartisan policy response. But developing this response requires us to start talking first. We hope to see this conversation begin soon in communities throughout Iowa, New Hampshire, and the early primary states."