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Vogel: Silence On Housing

Amid the barrage of proposals from Presidential candidates, I’ve been surprised that the issue of housing hasn’t come up. In my experience, issues like homelessness come in and out of fashion, and this year, it seems, the candidates would rather talk about immigration and healthcare. But housing has fallen so far under the radar that it’s almost invisible. I went to the official website for six of the leading Presidential candidates and not a single one directly addressed the issue of housing.

Marco Rubio states his position on 28 issues including not only hot topics like the second amendment, but other issues like sanctuary cities, the sharing economy and the common core. He says nothing about housing.

On Bernie Sander’s official web site he tells us where he stands on 27 issues including fighting for disability rights, combating climate change and improving the rural economy. But again I couldn’t find anything about housing.

Donald Trump’s father amassed much of his fortune building affordable housing in New York and while Trump has positions on reforming the Veterans Administration, second amendment rights and numerous other issues, even he says nothing about housing.

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush all have extensive sections of their web sites devoted to their positions on issues ranging from Alzheimers to cyber security but none mentions housing.

This silence about housing is particularly discouraging because with stagnant wages housing continues to be less and less affordable. Statistics from The State of the Nations’ Housing, a report done annually by the Joint Center at Harvard indicate that for the tenth straight year, the national homeownership rate declined and is now at a 20 year low.

And this decline in homeownership hits those 35 to 44 the hardest. Millennials are mostly renters, and nearly a quarter of them now pay more than 50% of their income for housing.

Among low income earners who need a subsidy to afford basic rental housing, only 26% of those who qualify receive government assistance. And of course, we still have a national homeless population of more than 600,000 people including 130,000 children. But the homeless generally don’t vote or donate to campaigns.

One can certainly make a case that in a robust economy the housing problem will take care of itself. But as people across America struggle to find decent housing that they can afford, it would be nice to know if any of the Presidential candidates has a plan to help them.

John Vogel is a retired professor from the Tuck School of Business. His tenure at Dartmouth began in 1992, where he taught Real Estate and Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector, among other subjects. He was named by the “Business Week Guide” to Business Schools as one of Tuck’s “Outstanding Faculty” members.
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