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New housing crisis measures announced by Biden administration

Dec 06, 2023Dec 06, 2023

Federal money for removing housing production barriers, such as through zoning reform, and encouraging commercial-to-residential conversions are among the new measures.

The Biden administration had pushed for an influx of new funding, including $170 billion for affordable housing, in the Build Back Better bill, which died in Congress last year. That funding has still not come to fruition, but the administration has taken several actions since then to help protect renters and address the rising cost of buying and renting a home.

Last year, the White House released a housing plan that, among other initiatives, gave cities and towns with reformed zoning and land-use policies higher scores for certain federal grants. According to the White House, the latest actions are in line with that plan’s vision of creating “an economy where everyone has access to a safe and affordable home.”

Highlights of the new actions include the following:

Experts say the latest changes could help, but not solve, the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

Henwood said it’s not clear that money and incentives are the key to changing local zoning restrictions, since those decisions are ultimately made by local elected officials. However, new funding that incentivizes commercial-to-residential conversions could be more effective, since those projects are expensive, he said.

The White House’s proposal provides communities with meaningful incentives to adopt policies, including less restrictive zoning policies and regulations, that will better facilitate the development of affordable housing, said Kim Johnson, manager of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in an email.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has demonstrated a commitment to addressing the affordable housing crisis in meaningful, welcome, and robust ways,” said Johnson. “However, the success of any administrative action on affordable housing supply will be constrained without additional federal resources to construct and preserve homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes.