Published Work

(FYI, my last named used to be Kraemer, which is why that’s the name in all my bylines)

Political Commentary:

It’s the Housing Stupid

By Henry Kraemer & Peter Harrison


Democrats need renters to turn out in 2020. If renters had voted at the same rate as homeowners in 2016, Hillary Clinton would have trounced Donald Trump in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

This is not just about political prerogative. Renters are emblematic of Americans abandoned by crony capitalism. Their fates represent the success or failure of the American project in the 21st century. The median renter makes just over $30,000 per year and has one-fiftieth the wealth of the median homeowner. Millions go without transportation, health care, and even food to pay rent. It is an urgent moral crisis.

Progressive presidential candidates must affirm that housing is a right, and strive to make it a reality. Given how many Americans are touched by the housing crisis, big action to address it can be a political winner.

As a courtesy to the presidential candidates — and as a guide to voters who care about housing — Data for Progress has put forward a “Homes for All” plan that offers a comprehensive solution to the housing crisis. And we polled on it, so we know that voters want it.

The Homes for All plan calls for four major reforms: ending racist exclusionary zoning, building 7–10 million affordable homes outside the private market, providing immediate relief and stability for cost-burdened renters, and treating housing as a home instead of an investment. Here’s how they would work.

Read the rest at Buzzfeed.

The Rent Is Too Damn High, and Progressives Need to Do Something

By Sean McElwee & Henry Kraemer


Consigned to the rental market indefinitely, tens of millions of Americans are locked out of a path to economic mobility. There are more cost-burdened renters (meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent) in the United States today than there were uninsured people before the Affordable Care Act. In the richest country in the world, a full one-third of American households are cost-burdened, including nearly half of the 111 million Americans living in rental housing. A full 60 percent of middle- and working-class renters with annual incomes under $75,000 experience cost burdens.

Across most income brackets, many millions of Americans are at the edge of a personal financial crisis thanks to their crushing rent payments. When a massive chunk of a person’s pay–a third, half, even more–goes to simply providing shelter, they often struggle to adequately feed and clothe themselves and their families.

Given the housing-cost horror stories we often hear about in expensive coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, one might assume rent burdens are potent only in already deeply progressive territory. The data tells a much different story. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s most recent Out of Reach report, a full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in 99.6 percent of American counties. Suburbs–the central battlefield of competitive American elections in 2018–are seeing rents rise faster than urban areas. Even people who do not struggle with housing costs themselves recognize this as a problem. Roughly three in five Americans recognize finding affordable housing as a challenge in their community, and 80 percent see it as a problem for the country as a whole.

Read the rest at The Nation.

Policy Analysis Report:

Homes for All: The Progressive 2020 Housing Agenda

By Peter Harrison and Henry Kraemer


Many people inside and outside of politics lament the death of the American Dream. That dream is defined – if common media narratives are to be believed – as owning a home with a backyard, a car in the garage, and a little money in the bank. Its “death” is usually understood to mean the increasing expense of housing (and other costs) that makes it harder for the next generation of Americans to achieve their parents’ level of comfort and prosperity. This is largely misplaced nostalgia and misunderstood history.

The death of the American Dream has been greatly exaggerated. But so has the dream itself. Tying it so closely to homeownership was always a mistake. Homeownership and its related benefits were only available to a select group of Americans, mostly white and, now, almost exclusively older ones. It came at the expense of other Americans, of other ways of organizing our communities, and of other ways of growing our economy. And it has come at the expense of the health of our climate and ourselves.

The housing crisis described in this report, and experienced every day by millions of Americans, has many people and, we hope, many policymakers waking up from this century-long slumber. But other Americans, ignored by policymakers for much of this century, have been wide awake. The current crisis may be unprecedented in its scale, but too many Americans have suffered through versions of it for their entire experience in America. For them, there never was an American Dream.

That doesn’t mean that there is not some version of an American Dream that is worthy of pursuing. As flawed and incomplete as the idea of the 20th century American Dream was, there is something heartening about knowing that there is still a deep foundation in all Americans for a 21st century version, or more likely, multiple versions. Some likely still include homeownership. Others include renting a home. All of those versions can be closer to a reality for Americans if housing is guaranteed as a basic right. If we, through coordinated public action, get that right, we can solve all of the larger issues that the housing crisis has laid bare.

Stable, economical housing for every American can be achieved through a synthesis of targeted, ambitious policies aimed at rewriting the rules and underlying structures of the housing system. Serious policymakers will pursue a comprehensive package of solutions, including immediate cash relief for renters, catalysts for state and local rent stabilization and equitable zoning, massive expansion of publicly owned and nonprofit affordable homes, and decommodification of housing. Many of these policies will not be cheap, but they are a small price to pay for the eradication of homelessness and housing insecurity, a dependable economic foundation for every American, a salve for generations of racial inequities, and a path to deep decarbonization.

Read the rest at Data for Progress.

Nonprofit Annual Report:

Alliance for Youth Organizing (formerly Bus Federation) 2016 Report



When Millennials are deeply engaged, change happens. That’s just what we do.

MILLENNIALS ARE THE LARGEST, most diverse, and most justice-loving generation in American history. We’ve created powerful, culture-shifting social movements from Occupy Wall Street, to the DREAMers, to #BlackLivesMatter. When we take to the streets AND the voting booth in big numbers, we transform what’s possible. The Bus Federation runs straight-up huge vote education and turnout, and tears down age-old barriers to the ballot. We launched the American Voter Guide – already one of our country’s largest youth voter education efforts. We engaged and educated so many young voters it’ll give you whiplash. Plus, we led the charge to bring automatic voter registration to America, and helped make it a record-shattering success.

Biggest. National Voter Registration Day. Ever.

Voting is a tough task in this country when states impose difficult and overbearing voter registration laws. That’s why we are here. *cue heroic soundtrack* Registering voters is one of the best tools we’ve got for getting over these useless barriers and, well, we are basically experts at it by now. In 2016, National Voter Registration Day was H-U-G-E. Like colossal. We grew the holiday into a massive national effort that reached millions of people. Don’t believe us? Let the numbers speak for themselves:

3,524 partners across the country
10,353 volunteers
359,954,794 social media impressions
And drumroll please…. 771,321 voters registered!

Read the rest at Alliance for Youth Organizing.