Presidential Debate Skirts Housing Topics Despite Recent Focus by Biden

The 2024 U.S. Presidential election—currently about four months away—kicked into a higher gear on June 27 with the first debate between the all-but-official major nominees, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. 

Housing policy was not a central focus of the debate, as subjects like immigration, foreign wars, abortion and (somewhat surreally) the candidates’ golfing prowess took up much of the 90 minute allotted time. 

But as the Biden administration has taken steps to increase affordable housing and sought to highlight its focus on homeownership in recent weeks, the presumptive Democratic nominee fielded a few questions that touched on his record and plan for housing.

When asked early in the debate specifically about home prices rising sharply during his first term, Biden turned the question around to focus on pro-consumer priorities of his administration. “We’re going to make sure that we have reduced the price of housing,” the President declared. “We’re going to make sure we build 2 million new units. We’re going to make sure we cap rents, so corporate greed can’t take over.”

Biden’s renter-focused policies were outlined in his administration’s “Renters Bill of Rights” (released January 2023), a policy blueprint with a focus on expanding rights for tenants in hopes this will bring down rental costs.

Inflation, as of May 2024, sits at 3.3%. To Biden’s point, housing costs have been cited as leading causes of elevated inflation. Certain experts, such as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and several think tanks, have also broadly cited “corporate greed” as the reason behind inflation, though others analyses, including a Federal Reserve study, disagree with this conclusion.

On the question of continuing housing disadvantages that Black Americans face, Biden pointed to his administration’s efforts to “deal with segregation that exists among these corporate operations that collude to keep people out of their houses” and his proposed policy of a $10,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

On June 24, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the Biden administration would be diverting $100 million from the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund over the next three years to spur housing development.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Acting Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Adrianne Todman also recently announced a new Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing, a program that rewards and incentivizes local governments for certain policy goals aimed at increasing housing supply. This will allocate $85 million to help 20 U.S. metro areas identify and resolve the barriers to construction and affordability within their cities.

Speaking about Harris and Yellen’s announcements before the debate, Ralph McLaughlin, Sr. Economist for® said: 

“The addition of supply-side tools in the federal arsenal is welcome news to long-term observers of the U.S. housing market, and we look forward to observing their efficacy in increasing new housing production in the areas where the country needs it most. However, there are still far too many households experiencing housing insecurity and distress in this country and far too little national discussion about it.”

Many of Biden’s housing policies were previously outlined by the 46th President in his March State of the Union address. Biden has said his plans have two central prongs: lowering housing costs (via both incentivizing construction and offering direct mortgage and down payment assistance to homebuyers) and lowering rental costs. 

For instance, Biden’s proposed Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit would offer tax benefits for building and renovating affordable housing; the White House claims this would generate as many as 400,000 starter homes across the U.S. The White House also proposed a $20 billion grant fund to directly support construction of affordable housing across the country.  

Another housing-adjacent issue that came up in the debate was the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Trump. Those cuts are set to expire come 2025. 

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) noted this expiration date during its 2024 midyear legislative meeting, citing it as an issue the association is paying attention to.

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