Housing is rarely a hot-button issue on political campaigns, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Although rarely discussed on the trail, candidates usually have detailed affordable housing policies, and President Joe Biden was no different. Biden released a housing plan last year geared at ensuring every American has a roof over their head.
But what exactly did candidate Biden call for, and what can we expect from President Biden as he takes office? As housing costs skyrocket and many face potential eviction, the government’s approach to affordable housing could shape millions of lives over the next few years.
Biden’s Affordable Housing Plan
Officially, the president’s program is called “The Biden Plan for Investing in Our Communities Through Housing.” The goal is ambitious and the price tag is huge – Biden plans to invest $640 billion across 10 years to guarantee affordable, stable, healthy, and accessible housing to every American. The proposal calls for direct financial assistance and individual protection, as well as reform to the housing industry to prevent discrimination and abuse.
In terms of individual assistance, Biden plans to create new tax credits for both owners and renters to make housing more affordable. The president plans to create a refundable, advanceable credit of up to $15,000 for first-time home buyers. This First Down Payment Tax Credit could prove vital in helping millions of families find first homes. Biden also hopes to create a tax credit for renters that would reduce their combined rent and utility cost to no more than 30 percent of their income.
To further protect individuals and families, Biden will expand access to legal assistance for those facing eviction. His housing plan also includes related proposals that will make housing more affordable or easier to secure. For instance, Biden included a nod to his climate goals in his housing pitch, noting that he plans to help families lower their electric bills.
The president’s housing plan also includes benefits for specific groups, such as veterans, teachers, and survivors of domestic abuse. Lastly, a huge chunk of Biden’s plan revolves around ending “discriminatory and unfair practices in the housing market,” but we’ll expand on how he plans to create a more inclusive housing market below.
Government Intervention and Funds
Outside of relief and benefits specifically for individuals, Biden plans to significantly invest in affordable housing at the state and local levels.
Significantly, Biden also intends to nearly double the federal government’s investment into low-income housing tax credits, used to spur the construction of affordable rental housing. Typically about $8 billion in LIHTCs are disbursed to state and local governments each year. Biden is planning a $10 billion expansion of the program, which has led to the creation of 3 million housing units since the 1980s. This is coupled with his plan to establish a $100 billion fund to construct additional affordable housing.
To further incentivize cities to invest in affordable housing, the president will also make zoning laws more inclusionary and give states access to hundreds of millions in grant money, as long as that cash is allocated toward affordable developments.
Reforming the Industry
Despite laws banning discrimination in the housing industry, it not only persists to this day but has contributed to racial wealth gaps and other disparities. Discriminatory practices like redlining essentially reinforced segregation, and homes in black communities in particular are massively undervalued.
Homeownership and wealth are deeply linked in America. Discrimination in housing is both a product of and contributor to racial divides in the country. People of color are often deprived of equal access to homeownership and then deprived of some of the major benefits that come with owning a house. To remedy some of this, Biden wants to create a national standard for home value appraisals, and filter out appraisers with implicit biases.
To protect all Americans, Biden is proposing a Homeowner Bill of Rights, modeled after a similar bill passed by California in 2013. The legislation is designed to prevent predatory lending, give owners more options when facing foreclosure, and generally expand protections for renters as well. Biden says he will also hold discriminatory institutions within the housing market to account. Much of what Biden has in mind would expand on or strengthen policies from the Obama administration when he served as Vice President.
In addition, Biden will restore power to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which was weakened under President Trump. Specifically, the bureau will once again be able to enforce settlements against lenders who engage in discrimination.
The Bottom Line
Biden’s affordable housing plan is one of the most detailed policy platforms the president will bring to the White House. While it’s unclear how much of a priority affordable housing will be in Biden’s first few months in office, it’s clear that this administration is gearing up for significant change within the industry.