Sanders unveils $2.5T 'Housing for All' plan in latest program funded by wealth taxes

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders says he wants to spend a whopping $2.5 trillion over a decade to guarantee all Americans – regardless of income – safe and affordable housing.

In formally unveiling his “Housing for All “ plan on Wednesday, the progressive senator from Vermont who’s making his second straight bid for the White House said there’s a shortage of 7.4 million affordable homes for the lowest-income renters. And he stressed that more than 18 million families across the country are paying more than half of their limited incomes on housing and utilities.

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

He emphasized that “for too long the federal government has ignored the extraordinary housing crisis in our country. That will end when I am president. My administration will be looking out for working families and tenants, not the billionaires who control Wall Street.”

Sanders says he’ll fully pay for the plan by establishing a wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans. Sanders touts that "99.9 percent of Americans will not see their taxes go up by one nickel” as a result of his housing plan.

It's the latest in a series of expensive proposals that Democrats say would be funded through higher taxes for the wealthy and other measures but have stirred debate in the presidential primary. Other such proposals include “Medicare-for-all,” the “Green New Deal,” free college tuition and medical debt cancellation.

“Sanders’ answer is always a massive spending program that will raise taxes on the middle class and increase government control over the lives of millions of Americans,” Republican National Committee spokesman Steve Guest said Wednesday.

A spokesman for President Trump's re-election campaign, Daniel Bucheli, called it "yet another pie-in-the-sky, big government socialist promise by the Bernie camp."

In teasing his proposal during a speech Saturday in Las Vegas, the senator acknowledged that the $2.5 trillion price tag was “expensive.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the other top-tier  progressive candidate in the record-setting field in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, has also proposed upping taxes on the ultra-wealthy

Among other things, Sanders’ proposal calls for building nearly 10 million homes through the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, social housing, Community Land Trusts and other housing programs. He would also fully fund the Section 8 rental assistance program, enact a cap on annual rent increases at no more than 3 percent or one and a half times the Consumer Price Index – which ever is higher. And he would establish anti-discrimination protections for those receiving assistance against their landlords.

Sanders says through his plan, he’ll rehabilitate and preserve 7.4 million housing units “to eliminate the affordable housing gap” and build 2 million mixed-income social housing units.

The senator also took aim at President Trump, arguing that “instead of expanding federal housing programs, Trump wants to cut them by $9.6 billion, or 18 percent.”

“Instead of working to substantially reduce the outrageously high price of housing, Trump has proposed tripling what some of the poorest senior citizens and people with disabilities in America are paying for rent today,” he added.

Sanders also criticized the Republican president for proposing to eliminate the National Housing Trust fund.