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How would Democratic candidates fix the housing and homelessness crises?

Homeless encampment
Duanne Hardaway clears the street in front of an encampment on Broadway Place in Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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The surge in homelessness in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other West Coast cities has troubled many Americans as rents have risen further out of reach for those with the least. The housing crisis has struck hardest in regions with a high cost of living.

Here are the housing and homelessness proposals from the Democratic presidential contenders:

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Joe Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden has promised a sharp increase in Section 8 rent subsidies to ensure they’re available to all Americans whose income is low enough to qualify. He would allocate $5 billion for a tax credit to ensure that no family who’s eligible for the subsidies would have to spend more than 30% of its income on rent.

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Biden would establish a $100-billion affordable housing fund to finance the upgrading of housing for low-income Americans. He vowed to put $10 billion into tax incentives that encourage developers to build affordable housing in communities that need it the most.

Biden would also condition federal grants to localities on the elimination of zoning restrictions that limit development near public-transit centers or encourage suburban sprawl.

Biden has pledged $13 billion in spending to combat homelessness. His criminal justice proposals include a goal of ensuring housing for all formerly incarcerated individuals upon release from prison.

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Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sandershousing agenda is ambitious, with a cost of more than $2 trillion over 10 years.

He says he would spend $1.5 trillion on the National Housing Trust Fund to build or renovate affordable housing; $400 billion more to build 2 million units of housing for Americans of various incomes to encourage integration of communities; and $50 billion to enable 1 million families to purchase property that they co-own with other home buyers.

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Sanders says he would spend $410 billion on new Section 8 rent subsidies for the poor, providing the vouchers to everyone who is eligible. He would also put $70 billion into public housing repairs and spend $2 billion to provide counsel for people facing foreclosure, eviction or loss of rent subsidies. He supports $500 million in spending on social services for the homeless. His plan would impose a cap on annual rent hikes of 3% or 1.5 times the consumer price index, whichever is higher.

“There is virtually no place in America where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a decent two-bedroom apartment,” Sanders said when he released his housing agenda in September. “At a time when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, this is unacceptable.”

Where the Democratic candidates stand ...


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Michael Finnegan is a Los Angeles Times politics writer covering the 2020 presidential campaign. A former New York Daily News reporter, he has covered national, state and local elections for The Times since 2000.