Biden says he can fix America’s housing affordability crisis. Will it work?

Biden says he can fix America’s housing affordability crisis. Will it work? - Business and Finance - News

The Persisting Housing Affordability Crisis: A Complex Issue with No Easy Solutions

Americans are currently grappling with the most severe housing affordability crisis in decades. The issue has been brewing for years, with baby boomers reluctant to sell their homes, insurance costs escalating, and mortgage rates reaching historic highs. Half of renters admit they struggle to pay their monthly rent, with some even giving up on the dream of owning a home.

President Joe Biden acknowledged the gravity of this issue during his State of the Union address, expressing his intention to help would-be homeowners navigate the affordability crisis. He proposed several actions aimed at increasing housing affordability and constructing more homes.

President Biden’s Proposed Solutions: Tax Credits for Homebuyers and Sellers

Biden introduced two new tax credits, both requiring congressional approval before implementation. The first credit, a refundable one worth $10,000, is designed to help middle-class homebuyers by effectively reducing their interest rates. The administration estimates this program will aid over 3.5 million buyers in securing a home within the next two years.

The second tax credit, also valued at $10,000, targets homeowners looking to sell their starter homes. This one-year tax credit is available to middle-class families selling a home below the median price to buyers who will reside in it. It’s projected to serve approximately 3 million sellers.

Addressing the Root Causes: Not Enough Homes on the Market and Soaring Mortgage Rates

Biden’s proposals aim to tackle the two primary factors contributing to the housing affordability crisis: a shortage of homes on the market and historically high mortgage rates. He called on Congress to pass legislation aimed at closing the housing supply gap and reducing housing costs by building and renovating more than 2 million homes.

The Impact of Underbuilding: The Demand for Homes Outpaces the Supply

The housing market’s supply-demand imbalance has resulted in soaring rent and home prices. According to estimates, the gap between the number of homes available for rent or purchase and demand ranges from 1.5 million to as many as 7.2 million, depending on the assumptions and calculations used.

The Role of Government: A Matter of Debate

Housing advocates welcomed Biden’s focus on addressing the challenges faced by renters and homeowners. David Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, hailed the speech as “the most consequential State of the Union address on housing in more than 50 years.” However, critics argue that Biden’s tax credit initiatives may worsen the situation by generating even more demand for homes without adequately addressing the root cause of the crisis: a lack of available housing units.

The Underlying Challenges: Zoning, Regulations, and Construction

Experts in the housing industry agree that there is not enough housing available to meet demand, leading to price increases. The Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy report attributes this issue to both short-term and long-term factors, including the impact of higher interest rates and tighter underwriting by banks, as well as regulatory hurdles and zoning restrictions that hinder new construction.

Despite this awareness, Congress has been discussing housing affordability issues, including zoning reform and price fixing, through numerous hearings for some time. The Senate plans to hold a hearing next week to explore potential solutions.

The Role of the Federal Reserve: Interest Rates and Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates plummeted in the early stages of the pandemic due to the Fed’s rate cuts intended to stimulate the economy. However, they began to rise in 2022 as the Fed raised its key interest rate in a bid to combat inflation at multi-decade highs. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached 7.79% in late October but has since retreated to 6.88% as of March 7, 2023.

The Complexity of the Issue: Addressing the Under-Supply of Housing

Although the Fed can influence demand through interest rates, it cannot directly address the underlying cause of the housing affordability crisis: the under-supply of available homes. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that a growing housing shortage is likely to result in continued housing inflation.

The Road Ahead: A Multi-Faceted Approach Required

Addressing the housing affordability crisis will require a multifaceted approach, involving regulatory changes to facilitate new construction, addressing zoning and other regulatory hurdles, and increasing the supply of affordable housing units to meet demand. While Biden’s proposed initiatives are a step in the right direction, a comprehensive, long-term solution will require collaboration and commitment from various stakeholders, including governments, industry professionals, and individuals.

In conclusion, the housing affordability crisis is a complex issue that has been decades in the making. While Biden’s proposed tax credits and housing construction initiatives are a positive first step, a truly effective solution will require a collaborative effort from various stakeholders to address the root causes of the crisis: the under-supply of homes and historically high mortgage rates.

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