In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden called for an annual tax credit to help Americans purchase their first homes and urged Congress to enact legislation to build or renovate 2 million affordable housing units.

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Housing was one of many wide-ranging issues covered in the speech, but it received more attention than in most other presidential addresses of the recent past.

“I want to provide an annual tax credit that will give Americans $400 a month for the next two years as mortgage rates come down to put toward their mortgages when they buy a first home or trade up for a little more space,” Biden said.

He also said his administration “is cracking down on big landlords who break antitrust laws by price fixing and driving up rents.”

On the affordable housing side, he called on Congress to pass plans that would build or renovate 2 million affordable homes and bring rents down. This includes legislation to expand the longtime low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) and passage of the proposed Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit, which would help build or renovate affordable homes for homeownership.

Later in his address, Biden also said his administration is “cracking down on corporations that engage in price gouging or deceptive pricing from food to health care to housing.”

Several national housing groups responded to the address with both praise and criticism.

“The National Apartment Association (NAA) and our network of more than 96,000 members strive to be active and valued partners in every community,” said the organization. “While we are pleased that housing policy is meaningfully in the spotlight for the first time in generations, the president’s misguided blame only serves to further divide us instead of solving the problems at hand: a critical shortage of housing supply and soaring costs across the board. NAA has long been ready to partner with policymakers to pursue substantive solutions; now more than ever, rental housing providers and renters across the country need policies not finger-pointing.”

Prior to the address, the White House released a fact sheet on the administration’s housing plan, which included cracking down on “rental junk fees.”

While applauding the efforts to increase the country’s affordable housing, the National Association of Home Builders said it believes that “a provision in the proposal dealing with rental housing fees is counterproductive because a one-size-fits-all requirement would interfere with the breadth and differences in states’ fee requirements that already cover limitations in amounts of specific types of rental housing fees, refundability, and return and disclosure requirements, just to name a few.”

The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) also issued a statement, praising the push to expand affordable housing programs.

“President Biden’s call for voucher and LIHTC expansion would immediately bring housing stability to nearly 1 million low-income Americans who are one lost paycheck or unforeseen health event away from homelessness,” said Sunia Zaterman, CLPHA executive director. “Moreover, the president’s extraordinary call to guarantee vouchers for low-income veterans and youth aging out of foster care is a transformative measure that would bring much-needed certainty to a portion of federal housing funding. This demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding housing stability for our nation's most vulnerable populations.”

This year’s State of the Union address is considered by many to be the kickoff of President Biden’s 2024 election campaign.

“It is clear after [the address] that President Biden intends to make housing a top election priority,” said Zaterman. “We encourage President Biden to become the housing president by creating a comprehensive long-term plan for a sustainable future for public housing that would include the recapitalization of the public housing portfolio, permanent expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program, and a cross-sector approach that includes housing, health, and education. We look forward to working with the president on such a plan.”

Habitat for Humanity was also paying close attention to the address.

"A historic low level of housing supply, including affordable homeownership opportunities, has put the cost of homes out of reach for far too many Americans for far too long,” said Chris Vincent, vice president government relations and advocacy. “As an organization working toward increasing access to affordable homeownership in the U.S., it is clear that we cannot simply build our way out of this crisis-legislative action is also needed. We were encouraged by the inclusion of the housing initiatives in the president’s State of the Union remarks and glad to see the administration considering supply solutions and ideas with the Innovation Fund for Housing Expansion. However, we know these priorities have a long way to go before they become reality. Right now, Congress can pass the bipartisan Neighborhood Homes Investment Act and allocate robust funding for vital housing and community development programs at HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] and USDA [Department of Agriculture]. These tangible actions would have an immediate impact in helping more families have access to a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home.”