What this election means for planners

As you likely know, November 8 is Election Day in the United States. Voters will decide who will succeed President Obama and, with that decision, the policy direction for our nation over the next four years. As our nation’s largest cities continue to grow, federal policy, particularly in terms of housing and transportation, will play a significant role in shaping the evolution of our nation’s urban landscape. With that in mind, what’s at stake for urban policy in this year’s election? Here’s a look at what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have proposed to do if elected.

Transit and Housing in Chicago. Photo Credit: Zach Ellerbrook, Creative Commons.


Affordable housing has increasingly become a major issue in cities across the United States, with rents and house prices rising rapidly in many in-demand markets. The affordable housing crisis has reached such proportions that the Obama administration, to the delight of urbanists, transit enthusiasts, and affordable housing advocates, recently endorsed zoning reforms to encourage new housing construction, the elimination of off-street parking requirements, and mechanisms to encourage affordable housing.

Housing in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: NCinDC, Creative Commons.

Though neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has embraced as specific proposals as President Obama, Clinton has pledged to increase incentives for affordable housing and to reduce rising rental costs. Her plan also calls for providing assistance and resources to promote homeownership and coordinating affordable housing policies with improved access to economic opportunities. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Clinton outlined a specific proposal to expand Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to increase the overall supply of affordable housing.

Trump has not proposed a plan for federal housing policy. However, it is worth noting that many of Trump’s policy proposals on issues such as immigration, infrastructure spending, and policing would impact housing in the United States. For example, Trump’s proposals for greater enforcement against undocumented individuals and his proposals for increased policing could impact where and how immigrant communities live, as well as the general access to housing that they have.


With a gas tax that fails to adequately fund road infrastructure and sustained underinvestment in public transit, the United States faces significant challenges with our transportation infrastructure. Additionally, as that infrastructure ages, additional investment and strategies are required to sustain our transportation network and ensure that the transportation network of the future continues to meet our nation’s needs.

Pioneer Square Station, Seattle. Photo Credit: Oran Viriyincy, Creative Commons.

Hillary Clinton has proposed investing $275 billion in infrastructure over five years. She has promised to fund these infrastructure improvements through business tax reform, though has not offered specifics on those reforms.

Clinton’s plan includes a little bit of something for everyone. Though light on specifics, her plan proposes to fix and expand our roadway network, invest in public transit, and invest in the creation of a “world-leading passenger rail system.” Bicyclists and pedestrians also get a special shoutout in Clinton’s plan, which notes she “will also support bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure—reducing carbon emissions, improving public health and safety, and further providing Americans with affordable transportation options.”

Donald Trump has pledged to spend twice as much as Clinton on infrastructure investment, but has not provided details on how a Trump administration would spend that money.


Federal housing and transportation policies—and the funding attached to them—have significant influence over state and local decisions in these urban policy areas. Our next president will have the power to shape these policies and their effects on our communities.

North Carolina voters will also have the opportunity to vote in competitive elections for governor and U.S. senator, the outcomes of which will also impact the direction of policies related to urban planning across the state and nation. Though issues on transportation and housing have not been central to the campaign rhetoric in either race, transportation gets a little attention from Pat McCrory, who is running for his second term as governor, and Deborah Ross, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. McCrory, while not offering a plan or looking forward on the issue, claims credit for developing a 25-year transportation plan. Ross, on the other hand, devotes an entire issue page to infrastructure. While light on specifics, Ross’s statement on infrastructure also highlights her previous job as general counsel for GoTriangle, the regional public transit authority for the Research Triangle area. Perhaps transit enthusiasts and planners should take Ross’s explicit mention of her prior employment as a sign she could be a transit champion in the U.S. Senate? Neither Roy Cooper, who is seeking to unseat McCrory, nor Richard Burr, who is seeking his third U.S. Senate term, have made housing or transportation issues in their campaigns.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Polls are open from 6:30am-7:30pm. Orange County early voting sites and hours can be found on the Orange County Board of Elections website.

About the Author: Travis Crayton is a dual-degree master’s candidate pursuing degrees in public administration and city & regional planning. He holds a B.A. in public policy and political science, also from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Featured Images: Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. 12/11/2015. Photo Credit: Clay Masters, Creative Commons.
Hillary Clinton attends a campaign rally at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. 4/6/2016. Photo Credit: Creative Commons.