During the first presidential debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and reality TV star Donald Trump an issue which has been infrequently discussed during the campaign rose to the forefront – the housing crisis.
Milwaukee was one of the hardest hit cities in the country when it came to housing during the Great Recession. More than six years after the recession Milwaukee homeowners were nearly 200% more likely to face foreclosure. At that time, upwards of 40% of homeowners were underwater on their mortgages, ranking Milwaukee one of the five hardest hit metro areas in the country.
Millions of Americans ultimately lost their homes during the Great Recession, a crisis which came to the fore when Secretary Clinton charged that Donald Trump actually rooted for the housing crisis to occur in the first place.
Said Clinton, Mr. Trump “was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said back in 2006, ‘Gee, I hope it does collapse because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.’”
Mr. Trump’s response was revealing. “That’s called business.” No apology. No explanation that he was speaking only as an investor and not as a candidate for office. Even weeks before his potential election as President of the United States Mr. Trump does not seem to grasp that fact that cheerleading for a housing crisis which drove millions from their homes is a bad look.
According to CNN, when asked about the prospect of a housing collapse in 2006, Mr. Trump stated, “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy. You know if you’re in a good cash position, which I’m in a good cash position today, then people like me would go in and buy like crazy. If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you could make a lot of money.”
Throughout the campaign Mr. Trump has struggled to communicate that he understands the struggles facing ordinary Americans trying to make ends meet, provide a better life for their children, and retire with dignity. Simply put, Mr. Trump’s wealth makes it impossible for him to understand what working and middle class families experience on a daily basis.
At another point in the debate, Secretary Clinton drove that point home when she noted that Trump began his career with the help of a $14 million loan from his father. Very few individuals have that type of head start in life. Secretary Clinton went on to discuss the corners cut by Mr. Trump throughout his career, including failing to pay contractors for work performed on his real estate ventures.
Pointing out that her father made drapes for a living and connecting it to the owner of a small drapery she met on the campaign trail who had been stiffed by Mr. Trump’s business she stated the obvious, she was glad her father had never done business with Trump or anyone like him.
Today, things are better in metro areas like Madison and Milwaukee when it comes to the availability of housing, but persistent joblessness and stagnant wages in primarily African American and Latino neighborhoods continues, making owning a home difficult for too many.
Our communities need elected leaders who understand that owning a home is the difference between realizing the American dream or not, and prioritize expanding opportunity for our communities. Not someone who chalks up rooting for a housing crisis as “just business.”