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The 2020 presidential race has candidates focused on many different issues, and some of them are spotlighting the availability of affordable housing. The ones who are attempting to make that a part of a strong campaign platform have different approaches that could dovetail into what the current administration is now launching.

But, what will be an effective solution? This New York Times opinion piece explores some of the proposals.

A growing number of Americans are struggling to cope with the high and rising cost of rental housing in the United States. On any given night last year, more than half a million Americans were homeless. Nearly 11 million households managed to keep a roof over their heads only by spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent, sharply curtailing their spending on food, health care and other needs. Millions more cannot afford to live in the neighborhoods where children are most likely to thrive, or in the cities where jobs are concentrated.

Democratic presidential candidates are promoting industrial-strength plans to ease the pain. The ideas come in two flavors: subsidies for renters, and efforts to increase construction.

The focus on construction is a welcome development. The United States is in the depths of a decade-long construction drought that is driving up the cost of existing homes. Builders added about 1.2 million units last year; Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates the nation needs another quarter-million units a year to keep pace with population growth. A key reason for the shortfall is that local governments are impeding construction.

Three candidates — Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey; Julian Castro, the former secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama; and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — have proposed that the federal government should pressure local governments to allow more development. Mr. Booker and Mr. Castro have proposed that the federal government should require local governments to adopt land-use reforms before they can obtain federal funding for infrastructure projects. The point is not to mandate construction of skyscrapers in place of suburban subdivisions. Rather, it is to require local jurisdictions to make reasonable plans to accommodate population growth — for example, by allowing small-scale apartment buildings in single-family neighborhoods. It is simply not in the public interest to subsidize infrastructure in cities that are preventing housing construction.

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