Pete Buttigieg unveils $1 trillion plan for affordable housing and child care — and says how he'd lower the cost of college

Key Points
  • Buttigieg wants to invest more than $1 trillion in child care and affordable housing over the next decade as part of a package of proposals targeting the middle class.
  • The South Bend, Indiana, mayor also says he would eliminate tuition at public colleges for families earning less than $100,000 and reduce costs for those earning up to $150,000.
  • The new plans cost about the same as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg responds to a question during a forum held by gun safety organizations the Giffords group and March For Our Lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 2, 2019.
Steve Marcus | Reuters

Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg unveiled plans on Friday to invest more than $1 trillion in child care and affordable housing over the next decade as part of a package of proposals targeting the middle class.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor also provided more details on how he would lower the cost of college, saying that he would eliminate tuition at public colleges for families earning less than $100,000 and reduce costs for those earning up to $150,000. Historically black colleges and universities will receive $50 billion under his administration.

"As president, I will measure success not just by the size of the stock market or gross domestic product, but by whether working and middle class families are succeeding," Buttigieg said in the plan. "I will use public enforcement, public investments, and public options to make the economy deliver for all Americans, not just those at the top."

The proposals addressing so-called kitchen-table economic issues come as Buttigieg attempts to break out of single digits in polls in the final months before Democratic primary voters cast their first votes. Buttigieg has plateaued in national polls since formally launching his campaign in April, though he has recently seen a surge in support in Iowa, which hosts the first nominating contest of the cycle in February.

The plans announced Friday call for $70 billion per year in spending on child care and education and $45 billion per year on affordable housing measures. They cost about the same as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who wants to spend $70 billion per year on child care and $50 billion per year on housing.

The Buttigieg campaign said that it will pay for its plans by reforming the way that capital gains are taxed among the top 1%.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders have not released comprehensive child-care plans. Biden has expressed support for universal pre-kindergarten. Sanders introduced legislation in 2011 that would fund universal child care through kindergarten. That legislation never came to a vote.

Sanders has also proposed investing $250 billion in affordable housing measures per year as part of a "Housing for All" plan. Biden has not released a housing plan, though his criminal justice plan calls for ensuring that all formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon their release.

Austan Goolsbee, who served as chairman of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors and is now advising Buttigieg, said the plans highlight a fundamental philosophical difference between Buttigieg and candidates like Sanders and Warren.

"It's more targeted," Goolsbee said. "By focusing on the people who have the greatest need, or for whom this is the most relevant — the middle class and below — that allows you to do this with pay-fors that are realistic."

The child-care plan calls for $700 billion in spending over the next decade on "affordable, universal, high-quality early learning" as well as "outside-of-school learning opportunities in K-12 education."

The campaign said that learning and care for lower-income families will be free through age 5, and "affordable for all families." Buttigieg will also fund "program to provide cost assistance to working and middle class families for afterschool care and summer programming, helping to combat the summer learning loss that disproportionately hurts low-income and minority youth."

The affordable-housing plan calls for $430 billion in spending on programs to lower housing costs. Buttigieg's plan said it "will unlock access to" affordable housing for 7 million families and will enable 2 million more units of affordable housing to be built or restored.

"He'll end homelessness for youth and families with children and fully fund lead paint remediation to protect our most at-risk families," the campaign said.

The spending will be directed toward federal programs that support affordable housing, including the Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund. It will also go toward a tax credit that supports rental housing for lower-income households.

Buttigieg, who has come under scrutiny over the lackluster impact of his signature housing policy as mayor, has also proposed a sweeping law to promote home ownership for families living in red-lined neighborhoods as part of his racial justice plan.

The campaign also announced on Friday its support for expanding the earned income tax credit. The campaign said its proposal, in line with the one put forward by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would boost incomes for 35 million American families by an average of $1,000 per year.

Correction: This story was revised with the Buttigieg campaign correcting the amount of spending in the housing plan to $430 billion and the estimate of the number of new units to 2 million. The campaign also corrected the number of Americans whose income would be boosted under Sen. Sherrod Brown's plan: 35 million families.

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