Biden Suggests a Bigger Federal Role to Reduce Housing Costs

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A new report focuses on the prolonged struggle to build affordable housing across America and suggests federal incentives to help.

Economists in the Biden administration are calling for more aggressive federal action to drive down costs for home buyers and renters, taking aim at one of the biggest economic challenges facing President Biden as he runs for re-election.

The policy proposals in a White House report being released on Thursday include what could be an aggressive federal intervention in local politics, which often dictates where homes are built and who can occupy them. The administration is backing a plan to pressure cities and other localities to relax zoning restrictions that in many cases hinder affordable housing construction.

That recommendation is part of a new administration deep dive into a housing crisis, decades in the making, that is hindering the president’s chances for a second term. The proposals, included in the annual Economic Report of the President, could serve as a blueprint for a major housing push if Mr. Biden wins a second term.

The report includes a suite of moves meant to reduce the cost of renting or buying a home, while encouraging local governments to change zoning laws to allow development of more affordable housing.

“It’s really hard to make a difference in this space, in this affordable housing space, without tackling land use regulations,” Jared Bernstein, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview.

Mr. Bernstein added that administration officials believed many local leaders were encouraging a bigger federal role in zoning reform — which can help override objections from local groups that oppose development. “I feel like we’re kicking through more of an open door now than we ever have before,” he said.

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