Biden administration has big plans for nation’s housing market

Last fall, the Biden campaign put forward an ambitious housing agenda designed to eliminate housing insecurity for millions of Americans. The plan received little election-time focus or debate, and that relative inattention, pundits say, could make the proposals more “politically feasible” to initiate.

Here’s a recap of the major themes:

Expand the housing choice voucher program: Biden’s plan is to make Section 8 housing vouchers available to every family who qualifies. Currently, only 1 in 5 eligible households receives assistance because the pool of federal dollars is too small.

Expand affordable housing: Biden’s campaign plan includes a $100 billion affordable-housing fund, the majority of which would provide incentives to develop and rehabilitate low-cost housing in areas where there’s a need.

To receive the incentives, communities would be required to implement zoning laws that encourage more affordable housing. Many housing advocates have called for a ban on single-family zoning rules which restrict multifamily construction and contribute to a housing shortage.

Restore fair housing rules: The Biden administration may reinstate an Obama-era fair housing rule that required communities receiving HUD funding to create plans to eliminate housing discrimination.

The rules required local municipalities to track and address a 92-item checklist designed to identify patterns of poverty and segregation. The rule, terminated under the Trump administration, had been criticized as confusing, rigid and overly burdensome for many communities.
Provide tax credits for down payments: The Biden team has a plan to help first-time homebuyers with a down payment. The proposed “First Down Payment Tax Credit” would give qualified buyers up to $15,000 toward a down payment. The money would be advanced to buyers at closing so they wouldn’t have to wait until they file their tax returns. Critics suggest the proposal ignores supply-side issues in the housing market and would effectively drive rising home prices even higher.

It’s unclear whether any of these plans will come to fruition or how quickly the administration will move. In the short term, it’s likely the administration will be focused on handling back rent issues and mortgage forbearance in the wake of COVID-19.

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