Biden pushes plan to lower rents, blasts Trump in Nevada

By Jeff Mason

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden highlighted plans to lower housing costs during stops across Nevada on Tuesday, taking aim at high rents and blasting the policies of Republican challenger Donald Trump while using the former president’s signature slogan.

“We need housing that’s affordable,” Biden said in Las Vegas. “For too many people, the dream of having a home – it feels out of reach.”

Biden used his Republican rival’s trademark phrase “make America great again.” He touted a proposed minimum tax on billionaires and said, “We could invest in things that make America great again: childcare, a whole range of things we could do.”

Later, Biden traveled to Arizona, another battleground state that could prove crucial in November’s presidential election rematch. “This election isn’t a referendum on me, it’s between me and a guy named Trump,” Biden said.

Biden, who faces a tough fight against Trump, with the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showing him with a 1 percentage point lead over Trump among registered voters, has been making stops in a host of battleground states since sharply criticizing Trump’s politics in his State of the Union address this month, while laying out ideas he hopes to implement if given a second, four-year term.

With worries about high rents and mortgage interest rates contributing to voters’ sour views about the economy, White House officials blamed Trump’s administration for not taking enough action on housing costs.

For his part, Trump has lambasted Biden for his economic policies and for presiding over inflation, which has stung voters nationwide, with prices accelerating in January, although the annual increase in inflation was the smallest in three years. Trump has proposed carving new “freedom cities” out of federal land, partly to provide new housing options.

“The two greatest impediments to home ownership are high interest rates and skyrocketing costs of living, both driven by Joe Biden’s failed economic policy,” said Rachel Lee, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.

Biden’s housing plan, which would require congressional passage that could be tough to achieve in an election year, includes a $10,000 mortgage relief tax credit for first-time homebuyers and a $10,000 tax credit for people selling “starter” homes in an effort to free up housing inventory at the lower end of the market.

His plan also calls for tax credits to build more housing units, efforts to fight “rent gouging by corporate landlords,” and an expansion of a low-income housing tax credit program, according to the White House.

After the National Association of Realtors agreed last week to resolve antitrust litigation over fees, Biden called on real estate brokerages to “follow through and lower commissions.”

Following stops in Reno and Las Vegas, Biden spoke at a Mexican restaurant in the Phoenix area to launch a group dedicated to engaging Latino voters.

Biden needs strong support from Latino and Black voters to triumph in swing state races that are expected to be close and decide who prevails in the November election.

The president has faced anger from younger voters and Arab Americans over his support for Israel in its war in Gaza. That generated significant, symbolic protest votes of “uncommitted” by Democrats in primary elections in Michigan, Minnesota, Hawaii and North Carolina in the past two months.

Arizona’s Abandon Biden campaign urged voters in the Southwestern state to vote for author Marianne Williamson in the Democratic primary, which was being held on Tuesday, since “uncommitted” is not an option there. Biden secured the delegates necessary to clinch his party’s nomination last week.

Biden won Arizona in 2020’s general election by just 10,457 votes, and studies estimate that Muslims make up about 1% to 1.5% of the state’s population of nearly 8 million people. Biden won in Nevada by 33,596 votes. Latinos make up more than 30% of both Western states’ population.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Trevor Hunnicut; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Jonathan Oatis, Deepa Babington, Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler)