Nevada governor urges Biden to act on affordable housing

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) has submitted a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to decrease federal spending and to take action on affordable housing issues.

“A particularly acute concern to Nevadans is the housing market, which is reeling from the combined effects of high inflation and interest rates,” Lombardo said in the letter dated April 11. “Nevadans need more accessible housing, but the rising costs of materials and labor and high interest rates are creating a barrier for Nevadans to achieve their dream of owning a home.”

Lombardo cited data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis that compares the median home price in Nevada at the time Biden took office ($342,995) to the figure as of January 2024 ($460,000), and illustrated increases in monthly payment obligations for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) borrowers.

“Utilizing a 3.5% down payment through a [FHA] loan (principal/interest only) in January 2021, the monthly payment on a median home would have been $1,363.00 at the market interest rate of 2.82%,” Gov. Lombardo said in his letter. “Today, that same median home would be $2,808.00 per month at the market interest rate of 6.51% — which is over double the monthly cost to Nevada families.”

Combating the increase in housing costs requires “swift action,” and Lombardo noted that in a prior letter to the president he requested that Biden “make more federal lands available for housing development, so that Nevada can increase its inventory and address shortages to ultimately drive down costs,” he said.

But Biden has recently given voice to concerns he and others have about the national housing market, including in states like Nevada. Last month, Biden gave a speech in Las Vegas where he reiterated elements of his housing plan that were first detailed in the March 7 State of the Union address.

These include a first-time homebuyer tax credit that would offer qualifying beneficiaries $400 a month for two years, adding that this would serve to have the effect of lowering their mortgage rate by roughly 1.5%.

While not specifically mentioning a provision to turn over federal lands for housing development, Biden did say that the White House had “cut red tape so more builders can get federal financing for their new projects” in a move designed to assist states’ congressional delegations to take action on housing issues.

“A record 1.7 million new housing units are under construction nationwide right now because of it. In fact, today, my administration reported that single-family housing starts are at the highest level they’ve been in nearly two years, and my new plan would create 2 million affordable homes — including tens of thousands right here in Nevada,” Biden said.

Housing has become a key issue for many voters headed into the fall election cycle, where both houses of Congress and the White House are up for grabs. The Biden administration first telegraphed housing as a key issue in a briefing prior to the State of the Union speech, and Republicans have largely focused on inflation’s impact on the housing market to rebut the president’s proposals.

While there are some indications of bipartisan cooperation on housing issues despite fundamental disagreements on other hot-button issues, Congress is historically divided. The leadership in the House of Representatives is facing a new, looming challenge, compounding issues that stem from the narrow divide between the parties in the chamber.

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