(CN) – Seeking to shield renters and homeowners from “abusive” landlords and lenders, presidential candidate Joe Biden introduced a $640 billion plan Monday aimed at boosting new housing and eliminating redlining.
Modeled after laws enacted in California following the Great Recession, Biden’s Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights would force mortgage companies to consider loan modification requests before foreclosing and allow homeowners to appeal denials. The campaign plank also includes funding to help local governments stash decades-old redlining schemes targeting black and minority communities and reforms to make housing appraisals fairer in minority neighborhoods.
The former vice president’s plan proposes a total of $300 billion for new home construction which his campaign says would be funded largely through new corporate taxes.
“Housing should be a right, not a privilege,” the plan states. “Today, however, far too many Americans lack access to affordable and quality housing. Nationwide, we have a shortage of available, affordable housing units for low-income individuals.”
Biden, 77, is looking to jumpstart his campaign through strong performances in South Carolina’s election Feb. 29 and next week in California and the other states voting on Super Tuesday. Once seen as the favorite in the Democratic race, Biden currently trails Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg after primary elections and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Biden is banking on the plan being a hit in California, where housing and homelessness remain top issues for voters.
A recent statewide poll found 63% of likely voters are concerned about housing affordability and 61% said homelessness is a big problem. That same poll pegged Biden in second place with California voters – trailing Sanders – and more importantly, below the 15% threshold needed to gain a share of the state’s delegates.
Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom spent most of his State of the State address pushing fixes for the state’s estimated 3.5 million housing unit shortage and its more than 150,000 homeless residents.
Aside from borrowing from California’s 2013 Homeowner Bill of Rights, Biden says he will work with Congress to pass Rep. Maxine Waters’ sweeping homelessness plan. Waters, D-Calif., wants to spend $13 billion to spur construction of 400,000 housing units and provide vouchers for homeless and low-income Americans.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has endorsed Biden, applauded the housing proposal.
“As cities across America confront the twin crises of homelessness and housing affordability, it’s clear we have a national emergency on our hand,” Garcetti said in a statement. “We need a determined partner and leader in the White House, and this bold plan from Joe Biden makes it clear that is what we’ll have when he is our next president.”
As president, the former public defender says he will also support a bipartisan plan proposed by Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., that would connect people facing eviction to legal help. To further help renters, Biden wants to make expand the federal low-income housing assistance program and create a new renter’s tax credit for families that don’t qualify for Section 8 vouchers but pay more than 30% of their income on rent.
The six-point plan also calls for a “standardized tenant Bill of Rights” for military families and programs designed specifically to help homeless veterans.
“The government has broken its trust with military families by providing sub-par housing,” the plan continues. “Now, we have to work twice as hard to rebuild this trust. That will require the utmost transparency and accountability from both the government and the private sector partners charged with housing the families of our service members.”
Biden introduced his comprehensive housing plan Monday in South Carolina, where a recent poll has him with a narrow lead over Sanders.
South Carolina state Sen. Marvin Pendarvis said Biden’s proposal will help renters in places like North Charleston, which he claims owns the highest eviction rate in the country.
“So this is personal to me,” Pendarvis said of Biden’s plan. “And that’s why it means a lot to see Vice President Biden make affordable housing a top priority – and to roll out his plan while he’s here in the Palmetto State.”