Senator Elizabeth Warren is reintroducing her ambitious legislation to create millions of new affordable housing units and help tackle ongoing housing segregation and the yawning wealth gap between white and black Americans. And, this time around, the presidential aspirant has more noteworthy new supporters for the bill.
Representative Ayanna Pressley, one of the most prominent freshmen in Washington, is among the new backers of Warren’s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which is also being introduced Wednesday in the House by a group led by former Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, whose district includes most of New Orleans.
Also signing on to the Warren bill for the first time: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, one of Warren’s rivals in the crowded Democratic presidential primary field.
“For too long, skyrocketing rents and housing costs have pushed home ownership out of the reach for families across the Massachusetts 7th and beyond,” Pressley said in a press release. She called Warren’s bill a “critical step towards making housing more affordable and reversing decades of discriminatory policies that have denied black and brown families access to neighborhoods with decent paying jobs, high performing schools, and a chance at upward mobility.”
While it’s no 2020 endorsement (Pressley is holding her powder dry for now), Pressley’s backing underscores the support Warren’s proposal has gained among some prominent politicians of color. Others include Representatives Barbara Lee of California (a member of the House Democratic leadership), Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, and Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
Rashida Tlaib, a freshman Democrat from Michigan and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, is also supporting Warren’s bill. She, like Pressley, sits on the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over housing finance matters.
And it’s not unrelated to 2020. The housing bill is essentially one of the earliest pieces of Warren’s would-be presidential platform, unveiled last fall when she was still undeclared as a candidate. It’s a platform she has continued to build on with far-reaching and detailed progressive proposals to tackle big problems such as high drug costs and the dominance of big tech firms like Facebook.
(With Republicans controlling the Senate and President Trump in the White House, there’s no way her bill — which would raise estate taxes to levels seen under former President George W. Bush — is becoming law in the near future.)
The housing bill also puts meat on the bone of her stump speech discussion about the inextricable link between race and class in the US, and how she wants to focus on “big, structural change” that Warren has made central to her pitch to Democratic primary voters.
Of course, affordable housing is also a big issue in Massachusetts, and Warren has gained endorsements from more than 10 mayors in the Commonwealth, including Boston’s Martin J. Walsh. Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III are cosponsors, too, while a list of civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, are advocating for the bill.
Among the key features of Warren’s proposal, which would pump $500 billion into affordable housing over 10 years: The bill would boost federal funding to build more than 3 million affordable housing units for low- and middle-income families and create a $10 billion grant program that would give money to communities who overhaul zoning rules that currently prevent affordable housing construction.
To address past discrimination in federal housing policy, Warren’s bill would provide down-payment assistance to first-time homebuyers living in areas that had been redlined or officially segregated before such practices became illegal.
An outside analysis by economist Mark Zandi found Warren’s bill, over a 10-year period, would reduce rent prices by 10 percent and create 1.5 million jobs — and not add to the deficit, largely thanks to language in the bill that would return the estate tax to 2009 levels.