Biden administration announces plan to increase the supply of affordable housing


Pennsylvania, where a housing crisis was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, stands to benefit from the plan announced by the White House on May 16.

Pennsylvania, which is already using funds made available under the American Rescue Plan to expand its stock of affordable housing, is set to benefit from the Biden administration's newly released "Housing Supply Action Plan, designed to address ongoing nationwide housing supply shortages.

While Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has previously announced the allocation of millions of dollars in federal funding for housing assistance in his state, surveys show that residents of the state are still struggling with housing issues exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

In a statement issued Monday, the White House announced the plan and described the crisis in available and affordable housing:

Today's rising housing costs are years in the making. Fewer new homes were built in the decade following the Great Recession than in any decade since the 1960s – constraining housing supply and failing to keep pace with demand and household formation. This mismatch between housing supply and housing demand grew during the pandemic. While estimates vary, Moody's Analytics estimates that the shortfall in the housing supply is more than 1.5 million homes nationwide. This shortfall burdens family budgets, drives up inflation, limits economic growth, maintains residential segregation, and exacerbates climate change. Rising housing costs have burdened families of all incomes, with a particular impact on low- and moderate-income families, and people and communities of color.

The White House said that President Joe Biden's "plan includes legislative and administrative actions that will help close America's housing supply shortfall in 5 years, starting with the creation and preservation of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units in the next three years. ... This is the most comprehensive all of government effort to close the housing supply shortfall in history."

Under the plan, the federal government will work to help shape local policies on land use and zoning and will direct funds to assist low-income Americans faced with high rents, "with a particular focus on building and preserving rental housing for low- and moderate-income families. The Plan's policies to boost supply are an important element of bringing homeownership within reach for Americans," the White House said.

The administration said that funding allocated under the $1.9 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to jurisdictions, including funding disbursed through grants from the Department of Transportation, will "reward jurisdictions that have put in place land-use policies to promote density and rural main street revitalization ... DOT will continue to include language encouraging locally driven land use reform, density, rural main street revitalization, and transit-oriented development in [Bipartisan Infrastructure Law] and other transportation discretionary grant programs."

A report released in April by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center notes that since the onset of COVID-19, there is even less affordable rental housing available in the state than previously. The website Pennsylvania Business Report noted that the author of the report, Kehinde Akande, said, "The two main takeaways are that eviction mitigation is working to keep people in their homes, and it should be expanded, and a permanent rental assistance fund is needed in the state for the large numbers of cost-burdened families in Pennsylvania."

A survey released in March by the Bucks County Opportunity Council, which works on anti-poverty measurers, found that affordable housing was the greatest need in the area.

"In addition to the 74% of respondents who identified difficulty affording rent, 71% of respondents identified difficulty affording utilities as a housing challenge," the survey noted.

In Central Pennsylvania, housing and redevelopment authorities in Lancaster County reported in February that rent had increased 11% between 2021 and 2022.

The White House said in its statement Monday about expanding the supply of housing, "When aligned with other policies to reduce housing costs and ensure affordability, such as rental assistance and downpayment assistance, closing the gap will mean more affordable rents and more attainable homeownership for Americans in every community."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.