High Mortgage Rates Leave Biden Searching for Housing Relief

President Biden and his economic team, concerned that elevated mortgage rates and housing costs are hurting Americans and hindering his re-election bid, are searching for new ways to make housing more available and affordable.

Mr. Biden’s forthcoming budget request will call on Congress to pass a raft of initiatives to build more affordable housing and help certain Americans afford to purchase a home. The president is also expected to address housing affordability for both homeowners and renters in his State of the Union address next week, according to people familiar with the speech planning.

On Thursday, administration officials announced a handful of relatively modest executive actions, including steps to increase the supply of manufactured homes. White House officials said this week that they would announce “additional actions we are taking to lower housing costs.”

The increased focus on housing affordability comes as congressional Republicans assail Mr. Biden over high mortgage rates and housing costs, and as allies of the president warn that those costs are hurting working-class voters he needs to win in November.

There is little Mr. Biden can do immediately and directly to affect mortgage rates. Those are heavily influenced by the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies, and the White House is careful not to appear to be pressuring the central bank to cut rates. Fed officials have signaled that they expect to begin cutting rates this year.

New research from economists at Harvard University and the International Monetary Fund — including Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary — suggests high mortgage rates and other borrowing costs are contributing to Americans’ relatively gloomy mood about the economy, despite low unemployment and healthy growth. By weighing on consumer confidence, those costs could be depressing Mr. Biden’s re-election hopes.

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