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New White House initiative to tackle affordable housing crisis

The Housing Supply Action Plan calls for easing use restrictions in homebuilding and converting commercial spaces to residential.
Construction of a new building.
Posted at 1:38 PM, Jul 27, 2023

Citing housing affordability as an American issue, the White House announced new actions Thursday to address the housing crisis.

The goal of the Biden-Harris administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan is to lower housing costs by tackling problems that have stifled housing. The broad program aims to address land use and zoning barriers that limit building and will examine the repurposing of commercial space to housing.

“For American families across the country, we know that building housing is complex, but we know that we need more housing, both on the rental side and the homeownership side,” Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman said at the news conference. 

“We also know what we need to do to improve the supply of housing. It comes down to two things. We need to expand the financing tools that we have to make sure we're building more and modernizing homes across the country. And we need to remove barriers to perhaps local or state rules to getting those homes built altogether.” 

To ease supply issues, Todman said $85 million will be provided to local and state entities to plan and innovate neighborhoods. Another $10 million will be available to help tenant education. 

Historic downtown area of Charleston, South Carolina.

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The plan also calls for more commercial-to-residential conversions that can add to the supply of housing and revitalize local economies. 

When it comes to homebuilding, the White House noted the price of goods used in residential construction increased significantly during the pandemic. Additionally, labor supply challenges in construction have made it harder for affordable housing developers to recruit and retain workers. 

In the months ahead, the administration said it will work with the private sector to address near-term constraints to supply and production.

Even before the pandemic, builders had to contend with issues such as regulations, said Rick Herman, chief executive of the Rochester Home Builders' Association in New York. Energy requirements in New York state add $8,000 to $10,000 to the building of a new home, he said. 

Herman recently worked with Habitat for Humanity to build an affordable home, and the 1,300-square-foot unit without a basement cost over $200,000 to complete in upstate New York. 

“Affordable is difficult,” Herman said. “You have supply chain issues and inflation.”