79°F
weather icon Clear

‘We need housing that’s affordable’: Biden promotes plan in Las Vegas

Updated March 20, 2024 - 9:35 am

President Joe Biden brought a theme of affordable housing to Las Vegas on Tuesday, highlighting a comprehensive plan that would invest nearly $260 billion in the need.

“We need housing that’s affordable,” the president told an audience of about 100 people at the Stupak Community Center, located near The Strat in the heart of the valley.

Housing costs have risen steadily since the 1970s but rose sharply after 2020, with the average price of an American home increasing from $374,500 in 2020 to $552,600 in 2022. The price has begun to decline of late, with the average price more recently at $492,300, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

“For homeowners, inflation keeps coming down; it’s projected to do that,” the president said. “Mortgage rates are going to be down as well. I’m not going to wait.”

The president discussed the investments his administration has already made in an effort to lower housing costs as well as his Fiscal Year 2025 Budget, which includes $258 billion in housing investments, according to the White House.

Biden touted the American Rescue Plan, which provided $1 billion to Nevada to help lower housing costs. Clark County has several 200-unit affordable housing developments coming down the pike, as well as about 1,000 new senior apartments thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan, according to the White House. Those projects include 195 units of affordable housing at the senior apartments at Eastern Avenue and Pebble Road and 125 units at Nevada HAND’s Buffalo Cactus Senior Apartments at Buffalo Drive and Cactus Avenue.

“We have a lot more to do,” Biden said.

The president’s visit comes as he struggles to get his message about the nation’s economy across to voters.

A CBS News poll released in early March found that voters recall the state of the economy under former President Donald Trump more fondly than the economy under Biden. On which candidate would better handle the economy, a February NBC News poll said Biden trails Donald Trump by more than 20 points.

‘Raging dumpster fire’

Republicans, however, see Biden’s policies and other Democratic agendas as adding fuel to the fire, increasing costs further.

“Thanks to Joe Biden and extreme Democrats, costs in Nevada are out of control like a raging dumpster fire,” Delanie Bomar, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. “Extreme Las Vegas Democrats like Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee poured gasoline on the blaze — but Nevadans will extinguish their re-election hopes in November.”

Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, ahead of the president’s visit, sent Biden a letter calling on him to release some of the 83 percent of federally owned lands in Nevada to housing development. He also criticized the president for supporting the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, which protected 500,000 acres in Southern Nevada.

“If your administration met Nevada’s housing crisis with the same level of resolve, our communities would have room to grow and would be more equipped to meet pressing housing needs,” Nevada’s top Republican official said in the letter.

Rent too high

Nevada served as the perfect backdrop for Biden’s talk about housing, as the state struggles under the burden of the nationwide housing crisis. There is a shortage of around 84,000 affordable housing units statewide, and as of February, home prices were up by 9.7 percent over the last year with the median cost of home at $446,700, according to redfin.com.

Seven out of 10 of the most common jobs in Las Vegas don’t pay enough to rent a studio apartment, said Horsford at the event on Tuesday, who spoke alongside Titus and Lee. Seventy percent of hospitality workers can’t rent a place of their own without being burdened, let alone achieve “the American Dream of homeownership,” he said.

“I agree with my constituents who feel the rent is too damn high,” Horsford said.

Goals stressed

On Tuesday the president also announced steps to crack down on unfair practices driving up rental costs. As part of his “Strike Force on Unfair and Illegal Pricing,” he is calling on federal agencies to find and stop illegal corporate behavior that hikes rental prices. He also wants to crack down on rental junk fees.

“Landlords should be competing to give folks the best deal, not conspiring to charge more,” Biden told the audience, receiving cheers from the crowd.

Some of the president’s goals, however, require action from the legislative branch.

Biden’s plan starts with “unlocking the housing market” by helping potential homebuyers who are locked out of buying a house due to high costs by providing a mortgage relief credit for first-time buyers, according to Lael Brainard, national economic adviser, who spoke during a media call before the event.

He called on Congress to pass mortgage relief credit legislation with a tax credit of up to $10,000. Biden’s proposal also includes a seller’s tax credit of up to $10,000 for middle-class families who sell their starter homes. He also urged Congress to pass the bipartisan Neighborhood Loans Tax Credit, which would construct or preserve more than 400,000 starter homes in the country.

Brainard estimates that proposal would help more than 3.5 million families purchase their first home and would help nearly 3 million families unlock inventory at the lower end of the housing market.

Biden is also proposing a $20 billion innovation fund from the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget that would help communities expand their housing. He also wants to see each Federal Home Loan Bank double its contribution to the Affordable Housing Program from 10 percent of the prior year’s net income to 20 percent, which is estimated to raise an additional $3.79 billion for affordable housing over a decade, according to the White House.

Las Vegas resident Kristine Schachinger said that between 2018 and 2023, her rent had increased by $1,000. She was recently forced out of her apartment that she had lived in for 19 years, and she was never told why, she said. She learned there was not much recourse for renters. To get a new apartment, she found that with different fees, it would cost between $5,000 and $8,000. She found Biden’s housing plans to be comprehensive.

“It looks like it addresses a lot of the issues,” Schachinger said. “It’s not going to address all the issues, obviously.”

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST