Federal Housing Policy under the Biden Administration

Federal Housing Policy under the Biden Administration

Long before the COVID-19 public health crisis, there was a need for more safe and secure housing that was affordable and accessible to individuals and families across the country. Now, as the Biden-Harris Administration settles into the White House amid a pandemic that has disproportionally impacted low-income communities, this need has grown both more urgent and more challenging to address, as well as become a critical component of the administration’s agenda. With this context in mind, here is a run-down of the top federal housing policies and plans that IBA is tracking this year:

Short-term Housing Support:

Upon entering office, President Joseph R. Biden extended eviction moratoriums established at the outset of the pandemic though March 2021 via executive order, providing much-needed peace of mind to the 30 million to 40 million American renters at risk of losing their homes during the winter months. The Biden-Harris Administration also unveiled the American Rescue Plan, a two-part initiative designed to address public health, economic and social crises exacerbated by COVID-19 and to bring about long-term recovery. As part of this plan, the administration has promised to provide $30 billion in rental and critical utilities assistance to help cover housing expenses for the hardest-hit renters and small landlords. Both of these policies will be pivotal for residents in Massachusetts, where over 108,000 households are experiencing difficulties paying their mortgage or rent, according to a 2020 report from the Massachusetts Area Planning Council.

Achieving Homeownership:

Homeownership is a key tool for advancing social mobility, as it enables families and individuals to build assets and wealth over time. A campaign proposal from President Biden seeks to address socioeconomic inequities by offering a first-time buyer tax credit of up to $15,000, which would be awarded to buyers as soon as they purchase their home. Because this credit can be accessed immediately, buyers can put it toward their down payment, which helps remove some of the barriers that low-income residents face when buying their first home. Down payment support could be especially helpful for prospective buyers in Boston, where home prices continue to rise.

Push for Racial Equity in Housing:

We are also expecting to see the implementation of federal policies aimed at addressing racial disparities in housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), under new leadership, has demonstrated a commitment to instituting policies that promote racial equity in housing. For instance, HUD is already considering reinstating the Fair Housing Act’s Disparate Impact Standard, which was eliminated under the Trump Administration. This rule seeks to redress a history of systemic inequities in our housing system by barring lenders and landlords from requiring criminal background checks on tenants. A recent Sage Journal publication revealed that police officers were more likely to pull over black drivers, despite them only making up 28% of a city’s population. Such data points to how systemic racism and policing create disparities in criminal charges. While the federal government needs to do more than just evaluate, reinstate or eliminate past policies to create a truly equitable housing system, HUD’s early agenda indicates that the department may be more dedicated to advancing a progressive agenda to fight systemic racism and support communities of color.

The new administration has a lot of work ahead of them, as they look to create a more equitable housing system that is accessible to all. These policy changes at the federal level, working in tandem with initiatives at the local and state levels, will help address many of the inequities in our housing system, which have been further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to fight for people's right to safe and secure housing, we are excited to see how this new administration supports the needs of individuals and families nationwide.

We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households in Boston. For more information on how you can support IBA, please visit our page: