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Sen. Warren introduces $450 billion bill to fund housing affordability

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced an expansive bill to Congress Sept. 26 that would fund a wide spectrum of initiatives to bolster housing finance and enable more Americans to become homeowners.

Called the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2018, the bill proposes investing approximately $450 billion over 10 years to support affordable housing construction, rent and mortgage support for low-income households, greater credit availability for rural borrowers, and much more. It also proposes new or revised laws tackling housing discrimination and zoning restrictions that may contribute to rising costs for consumers.

“Housing is the biggest expense for most working families — and costs for everyone, everywhere are skyrocketing,” Sen. Warren said in a news release on the bill. “Rural housing is falling apart and decades of discrimination has excluded generations of black families from homeownership. My bill would cut rents by 10 percent and give families in urban, rural, and suburban communities more economic security.”

Despite the eye-popping figures in the bill’s financial proposals, Sen. Warren said it could ultimately prove “deficit-neutral” as long as certain provisions and projections are realized. That includes a proposal to return the federal estate tax and other taxes on the highest income brackets to the higher rates that were in effect at the end of President George W. Bush’s term. According to Sen. Warren’s projections as well as a report from Moody’s Analytics, those tax hikes could offset most of the cost of the bill while increasing taxes on only the wealthiest 10,000 families in the U.S.

So far, groups including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Rural Housing Coalition and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition have voiced strong support for Sen. Warren’s proposals. Other groups, like the National Association of Home Builders, are more cautious. In a statement, NAHB chairman Randy Noel said that while the group supported Sen. Warren’s proposals in favor of loosening burdensome zoning laws and generally reducing the cost of homeownership, it was concerned that changes to estate tax rules to fund the initiatives “could hurt many small, family-run businesses by imperiling the ability of the owners to pass on their business to future generations.”

The future of the bill remains in question, and could largely hinge on the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections, among other developments. It’s widely speculated that Sen. Warren herself is considering a presidential run in 2020.

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