White House

The Biden administration wants to bring housing costs in line with people’s incomes. But skepticism among housing advocates and potential resistance from key lawmakers is threatening to create new obstacles.

A person runs through Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, which is home to numerous upscale stores, boutiques, art galleries, and multimillion dollar lofts on October 08, 2020. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

By KATY O’DONNELL

04/10/2021 07:00 AM EDT

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President Joe Biden is proposing a historic infusion of federal money into housing as part of his $2 trillion infrastructure package, but the plan is already running into doubts about whether it’s enough and resistance from the very people he needs to make it a reality.

A key element of Biden’s $213 billion proposal is offering cities federal dollars to encourage them to ease zoning rules that drive up housing costs, impede the construction of affordable homes and often prevent people of color from moving in. But housing advocates and economists say Biden’s decision to rely solely on financial incentives without including more punitive actions to force changes could dampen the plan’s effect on one of the major drivers of the affordable housing crisis in the U.S., particularly in the largest metro areas.

“All these places are reluctant to touch zoning, or it would have been done already,” said Jim Parrott, a former housing adviser to the Obama White House and the co-author of a paper on the U.S. housing shortage released recently. Success “depends totally on how big the carrot is and whether they deploy sticks.”

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