Kamala Harris proposes federal tax credits for renters

San Jose, Calif. (KGO) -- Buying a home is simply out of reach for many Americans. However, a new proposal from Sen. Kamala Harris would help low and moderate-income families that pay more than 30-percent of their pre-tax income on rent and utilities.

"This bill will ensure no family is priced out of the basic security of a place to live," said Sen. Harris in a prepared statement. "Bolstering the economic security of working families would strengthen our country and increase opportunity."

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The plan, which faces an uphill battle in a Republican-controlled Congress, would help households earning up to $100-thousand dollars a year. In high-cost regions such as the Bay Area, the level could go up to $125-thousand. Very-low income residents would a receive dollar in tax credits for every dollar they spend over the 30-percent. Moderate earners would get less.

"Republicans are not in the mood to give Democrats any policy wins, particularly in an election year, or leading into a presidential election where Kamala Harris is likely to be a candidate," said Lanhee Chen, Republican policy advisor and Hoover Institution Fellow.

Housing advocates are encouraged by the senator's plan and hope that politics won't get in the way.

"Ideally this is something that is going to be part of the solution of addressing the housing affordably crisis that leads to family instability, community instability and homelessness," said Mathew Reed, policy manager for SV@Home.

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Some real estate economists are skeptical about the proposal and say it could do more harm than good.

"The problem is high rents relative to wages," said Fred Foldvary, an economics lecturer at San Jose State University. "This will increase rents even more, making the cause of the problem that much more."

Many homeowners with mortgages receive a federal tax deduction, but no such credit exists for renters.

Sen. Harris has not ruled out a run for the White House in 2020.
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