How Will the Next President Fix the Housing Crisis?

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The candidates aren’t totally clear on their plans, but we’ve deduced that they range from “a wish list” to a “quantum leap.”

Housing woes continue to devour national attention, so as we approach the upcoming presidential election, issues surrounding new housing construction and affordability are bubbling to the top of many a policy agenda. Though the federal government has typically addressed housing through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), leaving much of the legwork to local municipalities, the two front-runner candidates are thinking…differently…about how federal programs might support new initiatives for affordability.

Both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have put forth policies anchored in their respective party pools and time spent in office: Trump’s administration not only diminished HUD’s power during his time in leadership but the candidate has also worked against many of what he labeled Obama-Biden “encroachment” policies that address issues like single-family zoning and fair housing. Biden, however, has continued to bolster HUD’s mandates and pushed for a greater federal role in supporting local endeavors to construct new homes.

As Americans are increasingly frustrated with housing costs, the issue could become more pressing moving toward election day. From speculative cities-from-scratch to housing vouchers and tax incentives, below are some of each candidate’s most prominent—and, at times, harebrained—policy proposals.

Donald Trump

The former president has, thus far, published few details on his housing agenda. In three pages of video statements and transcripts titled “Agenda47,” perhaps the most specific plans can be found in, “A New Quantum Leap to Revolutionize the American Standard of Living,” a five-part manifesto that it claims will restore America’s “boldness” by raising the “standard of living.” Most relevant to housing—particularly the increasingly unattainable costs of owning a home—Trump proposes to build “Freedom Cities,” chartering 10 new cities, comparably sized to Washington, D.C., to be constructed on federally owned land. There is no mention of sites (only that they would not include national parks), just that his administration would “hold a contest” to charter these cities.

The policy also includes “dramatically lowering the cost of living for young parents and working families”: “President Trump will work to make it easier to raise a family by launching a major initiative to lower the cost of living, especially lowering the cost of building a home and buying a new car,” reads the statement. While the plan does not name precisely how this might be accomplished, Newsweek reported last year on Trump’s speech at Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he detailed a strategy: “First, cut energy costs. Then, cut interest rates. Then, the economy will improve,” followed by vague additional statements on lowering interest rates.

“That brief snippet of housing policy has little bearing on the realities of why housing prices are so high,” explained Newsweek. Housing unaffordability can be attributed to several factors including high material costs; several so-called Quantum Leap positions are tied to restricting foreign-made materials including Canadian lumber. According to Forbes, Trump’s 2017 Canadian lumber tariff “put a strain on construction.” Trump’s “Making America the World’s Unparalleled Manufacturing Superpower” plan, which “rewards domestic production” using universal baseline tariffs on foreign products could again raise the cost of new housing construction. Quantum Leap also promises to demolish “ugly buildings” and develop “vertical takeoff and landing vehicles” (flying cars). (Sounds great, said George Jetson.)

In his agenda item “Ending Biden’s War on the Suburbs That Pushes the American Dream Further From Reach,” Trump also notes he will repeal the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule (AFFH), an Obama-era rule mandating those municipalities receiving HUD funds to enforce the Fair Housing Act. Such policies continue his previous administration’s efforts to hollow HUD initiatives, many of which were executed by then-Secretary Ben Carson.

Joe Biden

Housing was not initially a major force in President Biden’s core administrative strategy, but a recent piece from Vox notes that it has become a centerpiece in his reelection campaign. As Biden seeks a second term, it has increasingly become key to his plan to woo voters—particularly when costs have become overwhelmingly burdensome for most Americans. In what Axios has called “a wish list,” revealed in March, the president’s 2025 budget sets aside $258 billion for housing, prioritizing three issue areas: Access to homeownership, new construction, and rental costs.

While many first-time homebuyers are putting off buying a home while waiting for interest rates to decrease, the plan asks Congress to pass two new housing tax credits: One that would provide a total of $10,000 of tax relief over two years that would effectively reduce mortgage rates by 1.5 percent; another would provide a one-time, $10,000 tax credit to incentivize homeowners looking to sell their starter home. But right-sizing Baby Boomers in empty nests does little when new housing construction still struggles; Biden is proposing a $20 billion “innovation fund” grant program that would support new models for housing construction which, according to Axios, include ADU construction and office-to-housing conversions.

Although the federal government doesn’t mandate new construction, some of these policies incentivize or streamline new home construction: Biden’s proposed New Homes Tax Credit would devote $19 billion over 10 years to construct or renovate homes for homeownership. The innovation fund would also support communities seeking to rezone neighborhoods where rampant downzoning bars multifamily construction.

Younger voters, many of whom are renters, might also pay attention to plans to reduce rental costs. The Washington Post reported in March that the Biden administration would support caps on rent increases in select affordable housing units receiving federal assistance, and his housing plan also addresses recent Department of Justice arguments against rent gouging by corporate landlords. Most federal policies included in his 2025 budget address the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families by expanding housing choice vouchers, creating a $3 billion fund to support seniors living in unstable housing, and providing vouchers for veterans and those aging out of foster care. It also includes an $8 billion grant program to increase the supply of temporary and permanent housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

These endeavors, though taking a pie-in-the-sky approach, address the nation’s housing supply and affordability issues with the seriousness they deserve—more so than a future where flying cars and a gutted Fair Housing Act are central to defining the next four years.

Top Photos via Sarah Silbiger, James Leynse, Win McNamee/Getty Images.

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