Bill Aims to Help More People Break Into Homeownership

September 27, 2018

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has proposed a bill that sets out to make homes more affordable for low-income and middle-class Americans. The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2018 calls for construction of new homes and more renovations of existing ones by removing some red tape for builders on regulatory costs and offering more incentives for them to build more affordable homes.

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For example, the bill proposes giving local governments incentives to remove or ease some zoning and land use regulations that have stood in the way of increasing building in recent years.

The legislation also calls on providing assistance to low-income renters and home buyers, such as by offering greater down payment assistance to low-income, minority communities. The bill calls for $2 billion to be earmarked to help homeowners who are still underwater on their mortgages, even a decade after the financial crisis. The bill also calls for an expansion of the Fair Housing Act to make it illegal to discriminate against prospective renters and buyers based on sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, and job.

“Housing is the biggest expense for most working families—and costs for everyone, everywhere, are skyrocketing,” Warren said in a statement. “Rural housing is falling apart and decades of discrimination has excluded generations of black families from homeownership. This proposal will attack the rising cost of housing by helping to roll back needlessly restrictive local zoning rules and taking down other barriers that keep American families from living in neighborhoods with good jobs and good schools.”

The bill would be funded by raising the estate tax and taxes of the 10,000 wealthiest households in the U.S.

The National Association of Home Builders applauded Warren’s move to bring up legislation that targets the affordability crisis in housing and reform local zoning laws to make it easier for builders to add inventory. However, “funding many of the provisions within this broad-based bill by raising the estate tax could hurt many small family-run businesses by imperiling the ability of the owners to pass on their business to future generations,” Randy Noel, the NAHB’s chairman, said in a statement.