Republican senator takes aim at Biden’s housing policies

While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) exists to facilitate the needs that Americans have for housing — needs that are challenged by affordability, inventory, mortgage rates and more — recent policies of the Biden administration have hindered affordability by focusing on climate-related housing issues instead of costs.

This is according to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in an op-ed published recently in the New York Post. Specifically, Rubio is taking aim at a recent joint announcement by HUD and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in which they explain their new energy-efficiency standards for the construction of new single-family and multifamily homes.

“That HUD enacted this rule to celebrate ‘Earth Week’ last month reveals the reason for this absurdity: Once again, the Biden administration is putting environmentalist lip service over real human beings,” Rubio said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R), the United States Senate's senior senator of Florida.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Rubio claims that the new rule can raise costs by as much as $31,000 per home, adding that “it could take a buyer as many as 90 years to break even on that through energy savings,” he said. “Young families looking to purchase starter homes with Federal Housing Agency [sic] mortgages will bear the brunt of this impact.”

Rubio was referring to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which sponsors government home lending programs.

Citing inflation and elevated interest rates, Rubio claims “the resultant savings won’t materialize for close to a century,” he said. “In short, HUD’s new rule is a bad deal for ordinary people, which is why I tried to block it last year. Democrats, unfortunately, united to oppose me.”

Rubio went on to say that HUD’s new plan does not address the root problem of affordability, which is limited housing supply. But Rubio did not mention other programs announced by HUD designed to encourage the construction of additional supply, including $5.5 billion in grants designed to be distributed across all 50 states to address affordable housing supply, homelessness and substance use disorder.

Leaders in some states are also aiming to change zoning requirements to more easily permit the construction of additional housing units.

Rubio also did not mention other housing priorities announced by the Biden administration, including a $10,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, and a mantra repeated by the president and his advisers in the State of the Union address in March and subsequent speeches.

“We need to ‘build, build, build,’” said Neera Tanden, domestic policy adviser to Biden when previewing his housing remarks ahead of a speech in Las Vegas. “We know [that] we need to increase housing supply to ensure that we can bring down the rents and the cost of homeownership, and that is the premier objective of this administration — building more units and increasing affordability.”

Biden repeated the mantra during the speech itself, adding he had “cut red tape so more builders can get federal financing for their new projects” and that ”a record 1.7 million new housing units are under construction nationwide right now because of it.”

Rubio also took aim at the cost of rental housing in his op-ed.

“Half of America’s renters say they can’t afford rent, and an incredible 78% of would-be homeowners say they can’t afford to buy,” he said. “We have to put a dent in this problem if we want the American Dream to survive.”

Housing is becoming an increasingly potent political issue heading into a hotly contested fall election cycle, in which control of both chambers of Congress and the White House are up for grabs. While some politicians are taking a bipartisan approach to addressing certain housing issues, others are staying in their own lanes and highlighting policy differences.

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