Ahead of Biden speech, White House officials preview housing priorities

President Joe Biden will be in Las Vegas on Tuesday, where he will offer additional remarks about the policies and priorities of his administration’s push to address housing issues for renters and buyers alike. Biden will also highlight the money offered to states in the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act to boost affordable housing supply.

The president will use his remarks in Las Vegas to encourage Congress to support his housing agenda, according to Lael Brainard, the White House’s national economic adviser and director of the National Economic Council.

“The housing affordability crunch for renters and would-be homeowners has been years in the making, and the previous administration did not take action to address it,” Brainard told reporters. “The president will highlight his comprehensive housing plan and call on Congress to make the bold investments that are critical to lower housing costs for millions of Americans.”

These investments, Brainard said, are estimated to total about $185 billion. They would aim to “unlock” the housing market for many Americans by implementing a $10,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, which was announced shortly before Biden took to the podium in the House chamber for his recent State of the Union address.

“In today’s market, too many households who want to buy their first home are locked out by high costs, while many homeowners looking to move are locked into their current mortgage because it has a lower rate than what they would have to pay on a new mortgage,” she said.

Biden’s proposal would also “couple the buyers tax credit with a seller’s tax credit of up to $10,000 for middle class families who sell their starter home to another owner occupant,” which the White House estimates could “help nearly 3 million families and unlock inventory at the lower end of the market where it is needed the most,” Brainard said. “These two tax credits are designed to serve as a bridge as inflation and mortgage rates continue to fall.”

Brainard also commented on the National Association of Realtors‘ (NAR) recent decision to settle for $418 million in damages stemming from numerous real estate commission lawsuits. NAR also agreed to abolish its “Participation Rule” that required seller agents to make an offer of compensation to buyer brokers.

“The recent settlement by [NAR] is a major step in increasing competition and could save home buyers and home sellers as much as $10,000 on the cost of a median home,” Brainard said. “In Nevada, the administration will call on Realtors and lenders to make good on the settlement by offering more choices and lowering costs to promote access to homeownership for first-time, low-income and low-wealth homebuyers.”

Las Vegas was the venue chosen for the president’s remarks because of the home affordability challenges faced by the state of Nevada, according to Neera Tanden, domestic policy adviser to Biden.

“We know affordability for housing is a key challenge in Nevada, and it’s one in which the president’s agenda will really help address,” Tanden said. “That’s why he’s excited to go to Nevada tomorrow to really lay out his housing vision, because it addresses the challenges that Nevada families are facing.”

Tanden explained that the president will discuss ways to lower costs and increase supply during his remarks, saying that the administration is “laser-focused” on affordability issues faced by renters and homeowners alike.

To that end, the president will call on Congress to “further expand rental assistance to more than a half of a million households, including by providing a voucher guarantee for low-income veterans and youth aging out of the foster care system,” she said.

But the key issue remains supply, and Tanden reiterated what Biden and Brainard have said on the topic.

“We need to ‘build, build, build,’” Tanden said. “We know [that] we need to increase housing supply to ensure that we can bring down the rents and the cost of homeownership, and that is the premier objective of this administration — building more units and increasing affordability.”

When HousingWire asked about the political challenges of pushing ambitious legislative priorities through a narrowly divided Congress during an election year, a senior administration official said that housing issues are bipartisan. The hope is that lawmakers recognize this, especially considering the housing actions taken by leaders of both parties at the state level.

The official cited such actions from leaders like Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah, Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland and Gov. Maura Healy of Massachusetts.

“There’s a really bipartisan sense that we need to build up the housing supply,” the official said. “We appreciate the concern in Congress about costs. This is an important one, and these steps really address housing supply and affordability. Our expectation is that Congress will take these up in a way that reflects the bipartisan nature. Sometimes we don’t always get our way, but our hope is that people throughout the country really recognize this challenge and Congress should as well.”

HousingWire also asked about the recent decision by HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge to resign from her position. A senior administration official lauded the engagement of Adrianne Todman, the current deputy secretary of HUD and soon-to-be acting secretary following Fudge’s departure.

“I’d be hard-pressed to think of a deputy secretary who was more integral and who we were in more contact with than Adrianne Todman,” the official said. “We have full confidence in her. While we will miss Secretary Fudge, we don’t think this is going to slow us down one bit. This is someone we have all worked with closely, both through the American Rescue Plan and through the new housing initiatives.”

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