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Biden pushes housing policy ahead of high-stakes debate with Trump

The Biden administration announced new plans to lower housing prices, a problem looming large with voters, ahead of the first presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. 

As the week inches closer to Thursday’s debate, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the country the Biden administration has allocated $100 million to expand affordable housing. Her message comes as home prices across the country hit another record high in April.

Sandwiched between high interest rates and a supply shortage, housing has quickly become a top subject with voters this election cycle. Last month, a Gallup survey warned housing was second only to inflation to voters frustrated by the market’s high prices. Another recent Harvard poll surveying young voters found housing ranked as the third-most important issue. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. The Biden administration is announcing new federal initiatives to increase access to affordable housing. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Biden administration’s latest announcement expanding federally subsidized affordable housing marks a continuation of its strategy to bring down prices ahead of the 2024 election.

When Biden signed his landmark American Rescue Plan Act into law in 2021, the bill had the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program that included nearly $59 billion to states in flexible funding. Major cities across the country have spent nearly $7 billion of the SLFR funds toward affordable housing developments, according to the Brookings Institution. In states across the country, the Biden administration has touted expanding federally subsidized affordable housing as the key to increasing housing supply and lowering prices. 

Nevada, one of the states hit hardest by the housing crisis, received $700 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was directly targeted to support major affordable housing projects. Earlier this year, Biden made a trip to Reno, touting a new plan to expand “tens of thousands” of affordable housing units “right here in Nevada” by expanding the low-income housing tax credits. After the president made his affordable housing pitch in a swing state that will be critical to win this November, the governor said he believed Biden was taking the wrong approach. 

In April, Gov. Joe Lombardo (R-NV) said the Biden administration’s “excessive federal spending” was crippling the housing market in his state. Nevada’s governor warned that the Biden administration’s strategy of piling federal funds on the housing crisis was only exacerbating the problem.

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“Mr. President, it is time for your administration to embrace free market principles that rely upon supply and demand and rein in excessive federal spending that is hurting Nevada families,” the governor said. 

Joe Lombardo at a rally for Donald Trump in Nevada.(AP Photo/José Luis Villegas, Pool)

For Republicans and Democrats, the housing problem will likely remain top of mind this year as people grapple with a new reality: The median sales price for a new home has risen more than 40% since 2020. According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year mortgage rate is now 6.9% — more than double the rate four years ago. 

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