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In Las Vegas campaign stop, Biden details plans to make housing more affordable

President Joe Biden focused his remarks on housing affordability in Las Vegas Tuesday. (Credit: Ian Maule/Getty Images)

Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
March 19, 2024

Amid a growing housing crisis in Nevada, as with the rest of the country, President Joe Biden called for investing billions of dollars to build more affordable units, expanding assistance for unhoused and low-income residents, and helping first-time homebuyers in a Las Vegas stop Tuesday.  

Though never mentioning him by name – only referring to him as “my predecessor” or “the last guy” – Biden warned former President Donald Trump was committed to “cutting funds for affordable housing.”

“Not building,” Biden said. “Cutting funds for them.”

Ahead of his most recent visit to Nevada, which started with a stop in Reno, the White House announced that Biden’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget is calling for $258 billion in housing investments, which includes expanding rental assistance for low-income families. 

Biden is seeking to expand Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, which are used to aid developers in building affordable units, and direct $20 billion for an “innovation fund for housing expansion” to support construction of affordable multifamily units.

He said his plan will lead to the creation of an estimated 2 million affordable homes, “including tens of thousands right here in Nevada”

“I know affordable housing has been a challenge for a long time,” Biden said. “To solve it long term we have to increase supply because when supply is down, demand is up,” and costs rise. 

“The bottom line to lower housing costs for good is to build, build, build,” Biden said. 

The housing crisis isn’t new and has only been exacerbated by the pandemic when rent prices skyrocketed and the pathway to homeownership steepened.

In a report released earlier this month, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) said that while every major U.S. metropolitan area has a shortage of affordable units, “of the 50 largest metropolitan areas, extremely low-income renters face the most severe shortages in Las Vegas.”

The NLIHC criticized Trump while he was in office for proposing cuts to housing benefits, eliminating the national Housing Trust Fund and slashing funds for tenant-based rental assistance.

Biden said, by contrast, he is seeking the most “consequential housing plan in more than 50 years.” 

The administration has called on Congress to pass the Mortgage Relief Credit Act, which would provide first-time homebuyers with a $10,000 tax credit over two years, and also providing down-payment assistance to first-generation buyers.

The White House also wants an additional $8 billion in new grant programs to “expand temporary and permanent housing strategies for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness” and is calling to expand Housing Choice Vouchers, commonly referred to as Section 8 assistance. 

“In the United States no one should have to live in the streets,” Biden said. 

‘Calling it sugar’

Democratic U.S. Rep Dina Titus, who spoke ahead of Biden, said Biden’s proposals are important but will face resistance from Republicans.

“With the Republican Congress leading in the House, we can’t get those to the floor,” she said. “We need you to remember elections do make a difference so we can get some of those proposals passed.” 

The administration, through various agencies, has also looked at ways to lower closing costs, and regulate rental “junk fees” such as charging tenants to pay rent online. 

Biden said the administration is working to crack down “on big corporations that are breaking antitrust laws by price fixing to keep the rents up” and address discrimination practices in home buying. 

“We are also going to end the legacy of discrimination based on home evaluation,” Biden said. “It exacerbates the racial wealth gap and holds back Black and brown families. It’s simply wrong.”

States have already been using funding provided from the American Rescue Plan Act, passed in 2021 which provided states and localities with billions in relief dollars, to develop and preserve affordable housing.

The law was enacted without any Republican support. 

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak pledged $500 million of ARPA dollars for housing, which is still being developed. The Nevada Housing Division, which has been overseeing the allocation of the funds, estimated about 2,800 would be built throughout the state.  

Ahead of Biden’s visit, Nevada Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, who has endorsed Donald Trump for president, sent a letter to the White House urging the administration to make more federal land available for housing development.

“Even after Congress identifies land for community use, the process, which includes land surveys, appraisals, and environmental impact assessments, is notorious for slowing timelines and escalating project costs,” Lombardo wrote. “Despite spending billions on laws like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the federal government still struggles to efficiently deliver on public land conveyances due to a lack of resources and manpower.” 

Titus pushed back on Lombardo’s arguments, saying voters shouldn’t be misled by Republicans “calling it sugar” – a reference to a remark Titus made  during Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit in January when Titus said not to let Republicans “sell that same old shit and call it sugar”

“This is a good example of that,” she said. “And don’t forget the governor vetoed about half a dozen bills the legislature passed to help with the housing issue.”

Several bills Lombardo killed during the 2023 Legislative Session sought to bolster tenant protections and further regulate deposit and application fees. 

He also vetoed bills that would have made changes to the state’s quick eviction process, including a proposal to extend a modified version of a 2021 protection that temporarily paused an eviction while a rental assistance application was being processed.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.