• The Biden-Harris Administration is taking action to lower housing costs by:
⁍ Addressing restrictive land use and zoning rules.
⁍ Expanding financing for affordable and energy-efficient housing.
⁍ Promoting commercial-to-residential conversions.
• Recent data shows progress in the slowing of rent hikes, and the creation of tens of thousands of affordable housing units.
The Biden-Harris Administration announced its Housing Supply Action Plan last week, which focuses on lowering housing costs and increasing the supply of affordable housing through various initiatives. The administration has been committed to making housing more accessible and affordable for all Americans, especially those with lower and middle incomes.
Reducing Restrictive Barriers to Affordable Housing
Local land use laws and zoning regulations have not only limited the availability of housing, but have also maintained neighborhood segregation, and hindered access to jobs. To address this, the Biden-Harris Administration has introduced the “Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing” (PRO Housing) program.
This groundbreaking $85 million federal initiative will provide funding to communities for identifying and removing barriers to affordable housing production and preservation. It will be overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will award grants of up to $10 million to local governments that have a significant demand for affordable housing and are working to remove housing development restrictions.
The funds can be used for activities like enacting higher-density zoning, streamlining affordable housing development, and reducing land use restrictions related to parking and other factors.
The Department of Transportation has also introduced the “Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods” program. This program provides $3.16 billion for planning and construction projects. Its goal is to improve access to affordable housing, prioritizing disadvantaged communities. The initiative emphasizes zoning reform to increase housing supply and promote equitable development.
Expanding Access To Energy Efficient and Climate Resilient Housing
Limited access to financing has made it harder to build and preserve affordable housing. Having to mix funding from many sources is also very complex. The Biden-Harris Administration has already started to take various actions to tackle these challenges:
- The Environmental Protection Agency announced the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The fund will mobilize private capital and provide financing for clean energy projects. Housing needs will be a focus, supporting energy-efficient retrofits of existing homes, zero emissions building construction, and commercial-to-residential conversions. These investments will reduce pollution and lower utility costs.
- HUD introduced the Green and Resilient Retrofit Program. The program’s $830 million in grants and loan subsidies will modernize existing HUD-assisted affordable homes and make them available for families in the future.
- HUD updated its guidelines to make it easier to build and rehabilitate apartments with Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgages. This will streamline loan reviews and reduce development costs for large rental properties.
- HUD also updated guidelines that allow public housing agencies (PHAs) to use housing vouchers and mixed-financing to more easily build or preserve affordable housing.
- HUD published new guidance for PHAs and multifamily housing owners in the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). The guidance provides tools to repair and build deeply affordable housing with an emphasis on water- and energy-efficiency investments.
- The FHA proposed updates to make it easier to finance accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Being able to add units to existing homes will help low- and moderate-income homeowners build wealth while increasing the stock of affordable housing.
Promoting Commercial-to-Residential Conversions
The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes the potential of converting commercial properties to residential units. This will address growing commercial vacancies and add to the housing supply. To encourage commercial-to-residential conversions, the administration announced the following initiatives:
- A new interagency working group led by the White House will develop and advance federal funding opportunities to support commercial-to-residential conversions. The conversion projects will leverage climate-focused resources for zero-emissions and affordable units.
- The General Services Administration (GSA) will identify surplus federal properties for residential conversions. GSA dispositions are already producing over 1,000 new housing units.
- HUD is providing funding to support research on office-to-residential conversions. The department will release a guide for state and local policymakers on making these projects economically viable.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan will make housing more affordable and accessible for many low-income renter. By reducing zoning barriers, expanding financing, and supporting commercial-to-residential conversions, the administration is taking real steps towards realizing a vision where everyone has access to safe and affordable housing.