White House Recommends Policies to Increase Affordable Housing

2024 Economic Report of the President & Council of Economic Advisers

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report yesterday on policies to boost the supply of affordable rental and ownership units—proposals that could form the foundation of a housing push during a second Biden term. (2024 Economic Report of the President and New York Times, March 21)

Zoning Reform, LIHTC

  • The report explains that the federal government could reduce exclusionary zoning via grants and other spending, and directly subsidize affordable unit construction through programs like the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC). The report adds, “Ultimately, meaningful change will require State and local governments to reevaluate the land-use regulations that reduce the housing supply.”

Addressing Equity

  • The Council’s report addresses how increasing the housing supply could increase access and equity for groups with few financial resources, increase overall wealth, and reduce disparities across groups. (Page 163 of the Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers)
  • The report notes that exclusionary zoning policies, such as prohibitions on multifamily homes, are a “subset of local land-use regulations that can constrain the housing supply and thus decrease affordability.”

This week, President Biden also spoke in Las Vegas about his plans to “establish an innovative program to help communities build and renovate housing or convert housing from empty office spaces into housing, empty hotels into housing.” (White House remarks, March 19 and Roundtable Weekly, March 15)

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White House Focuses on Affordable Housing Policy Proposals

This week President Biden and his top economic advisor previewed a new Housing Innovation Fund and forthcoming proposals to encourage additional housing development. The White House’s focus on affordable housing confirmed it will be a top administration priority as the presidential election season picks up momentum. (Politico, March 14)

Administration’s Housing Remarks

  • Following his March 6 State of the Union address, which addressed new tax incentives for homebuyers and an expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), President Biden spoke this week about other aspects of his housing plan. (Roundtable Weekly, March 8 | White House Fact Sheets: Budget, March 11 and Housing, March 7)
  • Biden stated during comments at the National League of Cities, “The federal budget that I’m releasing today has a plan for 2 million more affordable homes, including housing — a housing innovation fund to help communities like yours build housing, renovate housing, and convert empty office space and hotels into housing. The bottom line is we have to build, build, build. That’s how we bring housing costs down for good.” (White House transcript and C-Span video, March 11)

New Initiatives

White House National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard
  • White House National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard, above, also addressed the president’s housing proposals this week. “While tax credits are a proven way to boost supply, it is also vital to support the efforts of governors, county executives, and mayors who are pioneering new approaches that can be scaled. That’s why the president is proposing a new $20 billion Innovation Fund for Housing Expansion to help communities expand their housing supply,” Brainard remarked. (White House transcript, March 12)
  • Brainard also previewed forthcoming administration housing policies. “In the months ahead, we will take further action– from supporting communities in identifying and removing barriers to housing production to promoting the use of federal resources for conversions from office to residential,” Brainard said. (Urban Institute video of speech and interview, March 12)
  • She confirmed that “the centerpiece of the president’s Plan is an expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) that would produce or preserve 1.2 million affordable units over the next decade.” (HousingWire, March 12)

During a Senate Banking hearing on March 12 on Housing Affordability, Availability, and Other Community Needs, bipartisan support was also expressed for expanding the LIHTC—a policy strongly supported by The Roundtable. (Roundtable Weekly, March 1 and Feb. 16)

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Policymakers Emphasize Affordable Housing Incentives, Increasing Supply 

Three U.S. Senators discussed national housing policy with industry leaders and Roundtable members during this week’s State of the Industry (SOI) meeting. (See Meeting agenda)

Need for Housing Incentives

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) discussed the importance of expanding and extending the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which was included in a tax package advanced by the House Ways and Means Committee last week by a vote of 40-3. Sen. Wyden negotiated the $77 billion bill with Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) and commended the overwhelming margin of bipartisan support in the committee vote. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 19)
Housing Panel at RER's 2024 State of the Industry Meeting.  Moderator Kathleen McCarthy, Blackstone
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), center, discussed what can be done to address U.S. housing challenges with Kathleen McCarthy, left, (Chair-Elect, The Real Estate Roundtable | Global Co-Head of Real Estate, Blackstone), and Shaun Donovan, right, (CEO and President, Enterprise Community Partners |former HUD Secretary and OMB Director). Sen. Hassan spoke about the urgent need for national policy to encourage development of more workforce housing, while Mr. Donovan noted the congressional tax bill under consideration would create 200,000 new affordable housing units.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) at RER's 2024 State of the Industry meeting
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)– introduced by Roundtable Chair Emeritus (2012-2015) Robert Taubman (Chairman, President & CEO, Taubman Centers, Inc.) – spoke about legislative efforts to revitalize downtowns. Sen. Stabenow referred to the recent tax package as an encouraging development for affordable housing, yet noted how more is needed to incentivize conversions of commercial properties to multifamily use. Stabenow is an original co-sponsor of the Revitalizing Downtowns Act (H.R. 4759) to encourage adaptive use of older buildings.

Housing policy and incentives advocated by The Roundtable to encourage more affordable housing supply are topics weaved throughout RER’s 2024 Policy Priorities. (See Executive Summary)

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Real Estate Coalition Raises Concerns About White House Directive for Federal Agencies to Strengthen Tenant Protections

A coalition of 12 national real estate organizations raised concerns this week about the Biden administration’s “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights,” which directs federal agencies to strengthen tenant protections. (White House Fact Sheet and Coalition statement, Jan. 25 and GlobeSt, Jan. 26)

Industry Response

  • The White House on Wednesday issued the “Blueprint” that includes a set of principles to encourage voluntary private sector actions that increase affordable rental units—and drive action by the federal government, state and local partners on tenant rights enforcement. The administration will also launch an effort in the spring to get local governments and housing providers involved in a “Resident-Centered Housing Challenge.” (White House Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights and The Washington Post, Jan. 25)
  • The real estate coalition, which includes the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), expressed disappointment that the White House announcement was “solely focused on renter protections, creating potentially duplicative and onerous federal regulations that interfere with state and local laws meant to govern the housing provider and resident relationship.” (Coalition statement, Jan. 25)
  • NMCH also issued a statement that acknowledged the White House action did not include the threat of a national rent control policy—and urged the administration to prioritize implementation of its Housing Supply Action Plan issued last May. “The best renter protection is an abundant supply of housing,” NMHC stated.

Affordable Housing Solutions

Brick townhouse on Sam Cooper Blvd near Overtone Park in Midtown district of Memphis, Tennessee
  • The administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan includes zoning incentives and government financing to address an estimated shortfall of 7 million units for low-income renters nationwide. It aims to create hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units in the next three years, with the goal of closing the nation’s housing supply shortfall in five years. (Roundtable Weekly, May 20, 2022 | PoliticoPro, May 16, 2022 | National Low Income Housing Coalition, April 2022)
  • On the legislative front, congressional committees showed support last year for the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (S. 1136). The bill (detailed summary here) has not been reintroduced yet in the 118th Congress. The measure would expand the pool of tax credits allocated to states for new affordable housing, make it easier to combine the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) with other sources of capital like private activity bonds, and facilitate LIHTC rehab projects. (National Multi-Housing News, Jan. 16)
  • Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “Overly restrictive land-use and zoning policies, construction cost increases, and labor shortages are deepening our housing challenges, which now extend across the entire country. Government at all levels needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would be an important step forward.” (Roundtable Weekly, July 22, 2022)

The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) has formed an Affordable Housing Working Group, which is working with the Research Committee to develop proposals on expanding the nation’s housing infrastructure.

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White House Announces Comprehensive Plan to Increase Affordable Housing Supply

President Biden at podium

The White House this week announced a plan to create hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units in the next three years, with the goal of closing the nation’s housing supply shortfall in five years. The Housing Supply Action Plan includes zoning incentives and new government financing to address an estimated shortfall of 1.5 million homes nationwide. (PoliticoPro, May 16 and Moody’s Analytics, March 2021) 

Comprehensive Approach 

  • The White House proposes a range of administrative and legislative actions that aim to build and preserve rental housing for low- and moderate-income families. The Biden administration’s proposed actions include:
    • Expanding and improving federal financing for affordable multifamily development and preservation using funds from prior COVID relief legislation.
    • Disposing of federal properties to create affordable housing for the homeless. Proposed regulations aim to make the disposition process easier to navigate for affordable housing developers and strengthen the process to identify suitable properties for potential developers.
    • Financing more than 800,000 affordable rental units by expanding and strengthening the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). The proposal would infuse $55 billion to expand LIHTC and include a 10 percent annual increase in 9 percent allocations from 2022 to 2024—and a reduction in the 50 percent bond test to 25 percent from 2022 to 2026. (Multi-Housing News, May 18)
    • Working with Fannie Mae to invest in construction to permanent loans; and reforming the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME).
    • Ensuring that more government-owned foreclosed homes go to owner-occupants or non-profits for rehabilitation, rather than to large institutional investors.
    • Rewarding jurisdictions that have reformed zoning and land-use policies with higher scores in certain federal grant processes, for the first time at scale.
    • Expanding federal financing of manufactured housing, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), 2-4 unit properties, and smaller multifamily buildings.

Transit-Oriented Development 

Transit-oriented housing

  • The Housing Supply Plan also seeks to provide incentives to increase housing density around transit hubs, goals long-supported by The Roundtable. These actions include:
    • Leveraging transportation funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) last November for transit-oriented programs to encourage state and local governments to boost housing supply. (Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 12, 2021)
    • Directing the Department of Transportation (DOT) to use IIJA and other transit-oriented discretionary grant programs to encourage locally driven land use reform, density, rural main street revitalization, and transit-oriented development that integrate affordable housing. DOT earlier this year released three funding applications for competitive grant programs totaling nearly $6B in funding to achieve these goals. (GlobeSt., May 18)

    • Updating DOT program guidelines to increase financial support for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program projects that include residential development. (President Biden Announces New Actions to Ease the Burden of Housing Costs | The White House, May 16)
  • The National Multifamily Housing Council and National Apartment Association applauded the Biden administration plan. Their joint statement noted the housing supply crisis requires the private sector to work with local, state and federal governments to reduce regulatory burdens and encourage the development and rehabilitation of housing of all types and price points.

The Real Estate Roundtable’s Research Committee’s co-chairs have drafted a report on affordable housing that will be discussed at the Roundtable’s Annual Meeting in June. Additionally, The Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) has formed an Affordable Housing Working Group, which is working with the Research Committee to develop proposals on expanding the nation’s housing infrastructure. 

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Federal Judge Rules CDC’s Tenant Eviction Ban is Unconstitutional; Justice Department Vows Appeal

Campus sign for U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

A national eviction moratorium issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unconstitutional, according to a Feb. 25 ruling by a federal judge in Texas. The ruling does not address similar state-level bans, but raises key questions on the extent of the federal government’s power to prevent residential tenant evictions during the pandemic. (National Multifamily Housing Council and GlobeSt, Feb. 26)

  • The federal eviction moratorium – first enacted by Congress almost a year ago in the CARES Act, and since extended by both the Trump and Biden Administrations by executive orders, currently expires on March 31.
  • Biden might further prolong the CDC’s eviction ban though another executive order. (Washington Post and NBC News, Feb. 26)  The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed by the House last week and pending before the Senate does not include a federal eviction ban due to procedures moving the package through “reconciliation” rules. (CNBC, March 2.)
  • In striking the CDC’s action, Judge J. Campbell Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled in favor of an individual landlord and six property management companies that claimed the moratorium exceeds the federal government’s power to regulate “commerce” under Article I of the U.S. Constitution. (BGov, Feb. 25)
  • He wrote: “Here, the regulated activity is not the production or use of a commodity that is traded in an interstate market. Rather, the challenged order regulates property rights in buildings—specifically, whether an owner may regain possession of property from an inhabitant.” (Terkel v CDC, Feb. 25)
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Feb. 27 announced it would appeal the decision. DOJ maintains the decision “does not extend beyond the particular plaintiffs in that case, and it does not prohibit the application of the CDC’s eviction moratorium to other parties. For other landlords who rent to covered persons, the CDC’s eviction moratorium remains in effect.” (DOJ statement, Feb. 27)

The Roundtable & Rental Assistance

Jeffrey DeBoer testimony on behalf of The Real Estate Roundtable

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer testified during a Senate Banking Committee hearing last year that the CDC moratorium underscores the need for a dedicated fund to help impacted tenants meet their rent payments.
  • He also testified that shoring-up a reliable stream of rent payments also provides apartment owners with the revenue they need to pay their property taxes, utility bills, employ their own workers, and invest in their building assets to keep them running safely and efficiently. (DeBoer Written Testimony, Sept. 9, 2020)
  • In Dec. 2020, Congress passed omnibus legislation that provided $25 billion in rental assistance.  Last week, the House passed a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that included an additional $19 billion for residential rental assistance through Sept. 30, 2027.  (See The Roundtable’s Summary and Analysis of Key Economic Provisions in The American Rescue Plan.)
  • The Wall Street Journal recently reported that small landlords who rely on rental income for their retirement are vulnerable to eviction bans – as millions of tenants are behind on rent, awaiting federal Covid-19 assistance. (WSJ, Feb. 26 and March 1)

Alston and Bird notes in an analysis of the Texas decision that “Absent a broad injunction, the decision has very limited effect. Nonetheless, the ultimate outcome of Terkel v. CDC could have important implications for other courts considering the scope of government action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly if it is upheld on appeal or ultimately heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.” (Alston & Bird, March 1)

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