Last week, Amy Klobuchar became the latest Democratic presidential hopeful to say out loud that cities and towns need to let people build more housing. She joined Cory Booker, Julián Castro, and Elizabeth Warren in proposing a more active federal role in getting state and local governments to loosen zoning rules—a topic that, up to now, has not figured prominently in campaigns for the White House.
The four candidates are demonstrating how much traction the YIMBY movement—the “yes in my backyard” campaign to roll back bans on new houses and apartments—has gained in Democratic policy circles. They and other Democratic candidates are sending an important message: A housing crunch in metro areas where tens of millions of Americans live is the kind of problem a president should worry about.
Whenever housing becomes an issue on the national political stage, it’s a sign that middle-class families are feeling the pinch. During the fall of 2008, a glut of subprime home loans had brought the nation’s financial system to the point of collapse, and mortgage foreclosures hit levels not seen since the Great Depression. How the government should respond loomed large over the debates between the nominees, Barack Obama and John McCain. In the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, several candidates are zeroing in on a different problem in the housing market: Americans are having more and more trouble finding homes and apartments they can afford in the parts of the country where well-paid jobs are being created.