Biden Administration debuts new plan to boost affordable housing

Housing advocates have praised the president’s budget proposal, which would give housing programs a $1.1 billion bump. Florida is pursuing its own 'Live Local' Act.

Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay

In his recent budget proposal, President Joe Biden highlighted housing as a priority, unveiling a plan to boost affordable housing nationwide. 

The proposal was praised by housing advocacy groups, who lauded the administration’s plan, in particular, to bump the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget by $1.1 billion to $73.3 billion, a 1.6% increase from fiscal year 2023.

“If enacted, the budget request would provide substantial federal investments in affordable homes and increase the availability of housing assistance to families with the greatest needs,” the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in a report last week

In Florida, lawmakers currently in session are considering legislation – a priority of GOP Senate President Kathleen Passidomo – to decrease prices by increasing housing supply, but the proposal also strips municipalities’ ability to enact rent controls, among other regulations. 

Previous coverage – Is removing rent controls part of the answer to Florida’s housing crisis?

The plan laid out in Biden’s budget proposal specifically calls for investments in the following HUD housing programs:

HOME Investment Partnerships Program

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program is one of HUD’s major initiatives aimed at helping state and local governments buy, build and rehabilitate affordable housing. Under Biden’s proposal, funding for HOME would increase by $1.6 billion, a $300 million increase over the previous year.

According to HUD, the requested funding would build nearly 15,000 units of affordable housing for new homebuyers; provide 13,300 units of newly constructed and rehabilitated affordable rental units; allow 6,622 units of owner-occupied rehabilitated housing for low-income homeowners; and provide rental assistance for nearly 12,000 low-income households; and preserve or create more than 32,000 jobs.

The HOME request also includes $100 million for a new home downpayment assistance program for first-generation homebuyers of low and moderate incomes. 

“This is particularly important for people who come from a low-wealth background and who find the downpayment to be an insurmountable obstacle to homeownership, even when they have the income and the credit scores to support homeownership,” said Julia Gordon, assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner, said on a call with reporters on Monday. 

Many people regard homeownership as a critical asset in generational wealth building, but barriers to owning a home disproportionately affect people of color. In 2021, about 44% of Black households owned their homes, compared to nearly 73% of White Americans, according to the National Association of Realtors. In 2022, only about 9% of homes were affordable for the average Black household, compared to 28% for white households.

Fair Housing

The budget also includes $90 million to support state and local organizations that enforce fair housing laws.. That funding, which is $3.6 million more than what was enacted in FY 2023, would also be used for outreach and education initiatives to address race-based housing discrimination. 

The National Fair Housing Alliance “enthusiastically” lauded Biden’s housing priorities, the organization said in a statement Friday. 

“​​For years, the federal government underfunded needed investments in fair and affordable housing,” said NFHA Executive Vice President Nikitra Bailey. “Today, the Biden-Harris Administration reversed course and righted the ship by centering fair and affordable housing in its rightful place to spur inclusive economic growth.”

Community Development

The budget proposal includes $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program, and another $85 million for competitive grants for states and cities to identify and remove barriers to affordable housing production and preservation. In administering the latter funding, HUD will prioritize communities that have already made progress toward removing barriers and those that urgently need affordable housing for those households making below the area median income.

Housing Choice Voucher Program Expansions

Finally, the Housing Choice Voucher Program would get a $2.4 billion boost, bringing its total to $32.7 billion and assisting approximately 50,000 more households than it did last year with a focus on helping people experiencing homelessness or gender-based violence. Approximately 2,100 state and local public housing agencies administer the program, making it the largest income-targeted rental assistance program, according to HUD. 

The budget also calls for using $9 billion to establish a housing choice program for children aging out of the foster care system and another $13 billion for “extremely low-income” veterans.

Molly Bolan is the assistant editor for Route Fifty, where this story was first published. 

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