On May 16th, 2022, The Biden Administration released a groundbreaking federal plan to reduce housing costs, naming the lack of housing supply as a main driver of the national housing affordability crisis. These proposals have the potential to provide significant support in the fight for abundant, affordable housing throughout the US. The plan also reflects policies supported by the pro-housing movement and marks a significant national call for an end to exclusionary zoning.
The plan, outlined in a statement from the White House, marks a [big increase] in federal actors stepping up] the Administration’s plan to address high housing costs, which continue to plague tens of millions of Americans. The Biden Administration has frequently brought attention to the need for housing affordability in the last two years, acknowledging inequities in current policies as well as the lack of available homes.
The announcement this week especially drew attention to the lack of supply as a core reason for the affordability crisis and named housing as the cause of “one-third of the market basket for inflation.” This emphasis on increasing supply as a method for reducing housing costs demonstrates that the Administration is committed to data-driven solutions that pro-housing activists have persistently championed.
In the statement, the Biden Administration outlined the role local jurisdictions play in addressing high housing costs as well as several strategies to engage them in creating much-needed solutions. The incentives strategically tie housing density to transportation funding as outlined in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. By incentivizing localities to reduce regulatory barriers and reform zoning and land use laws, the Administration hopes to facilitate increased density in communities throughout the US.
The White House also proposed historic investments in preserving and constructing hundreds of thousands of new homes within the next five years. These investments include expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and the Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit (NHTC); making it easier to fund the construction of affordable housing; and increasing the funding for manufactured homes as well as innovations aimed at building homes more efficiently.
In addition to the strategies outlined by the Biden Administration, eliminating exclusionary zoning is a necessary step toward increasing the supply of homes across the country. Single-family only zoning artificially restricts the supply of homes at all income levels and forces homes to be built far away from jobs, schools, and opportunities. This disproportionately harms Americans with marginalized identities, especially low-income people of color. Eliminating exclusionary zoning and making it easier to build more homes will reduce displacement, increase affordability, and allow people to choose where they live.
In contrast to the strategies focused on density and affordability, the statement also named "boosting rural single-family construction" as a way to increase the supply of homes. Often, rural development is the result of exclusionary zoning and other policies that prevent infill development. In addition to exclusionary zoning, lengthy approval processes create unnecessary barriers to building homes in existing communities, delaying housing production by as many as ten years and pushing home construction out to rural areas. These processes must be streamlined in order for housing production to accelerate to meet the needs of millions of Americans who struggle with high housing costs.
Rural sprawl also increases the use of cars because homes are pushed farther and farther away from amenities and opportunities. Increasing sprawl is environmentally unsustainable, as it forces Americans into long commutes and encourages harmful infrastructure such as expanded freeways. Sprawl also runs counter to administration efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. In contrast, increasing housing density and public transportation investments facilitates energy independence as well as reduced greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change.
Combined with legislation passed by Congress including the YIMBY Act as well as commitments from cities to implement necessary changes in land use and zoning, many of these strategies have the potential to create and preserve hundreds of thousands of homes. Although the stated goal of 1.5 million homes is lower than many estimates from studies that indicate a shortage of over 3 million homes, this statement outlines robust strategies aimed at creating a more efficient, affordable landscape for building more homes. While not comprehensive, this plan – if implemented – will take a significant stride toward ending the housing shortage in the US.
To ensure these strategies are implemented, Congress must follow through by passing legislation outlined in the White House’s statement. Additionally, Congress must pass the YIMBY Act.
YIMBY Action will continue to advocate for pro-housing policies at the local, state, and federal levels aimed at reducing the housing shortage. Along with our community of thousands of activists, we will continue to fight for what America needs and deserves: equitable, sustainable communities full of affordable homes and opportunities.