by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Biden administration is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to push states and cities to adopt climate-focused building codes, a move that experts say will raise sky-high housing prices even further.
President Joe Biden’s Energy Department on Tuesday announced a $400 million program aimed at incentivizing state and local governments to implement building codes that “lower greenhouse gas emissions” and fight the “climate crisis.” Of the $400 million, $240 million will go to governments that implement one “energy conservation code” unveiled in 2021—complying with that code can add as much as $31,000 to the price of a new home, according to a National Association of Home Builders analysis. Biden’s Energy Department is also providing $160 million to governments that implement “zero energy” building codes, which require residential buildings to install “enough renewable energy to achieve zero-net carbon.”
The spending comes as American families struggle to afford a home—the median U.S. home price rose to nearly $414,000 in July, the second highest ever. It also marks the latest example of the Biden administration’s efforts to use regulations to advance the president’s climate change goals, often at the expense of consumer choice. In addition to its building code spending, Biden’s Energy Department has unveiled environmental regulations targeting gas stoves, washing machines, refrigerators, and lightbulbs. Those actions, the department says, “support President Biden’s ambitious clean energy agenda to combat the climate crisis.”
For the National Association of Home Builders, the Biden administration’s “restrictive” building code push is unnecessary, given that new buildings “are already highly energy efficient.” It’s also expensive, the association argued earlier this year. “Newer versions of energy codes add costs to housing production that are not paid back in efficiency gains, further exacerbating the housing affordability crisis,” the association said.
Manhattan Institute policy analyst Jordan McGillis echoed the association’s concerns, telling the Washington Free Beacon that Biden’s green building code program will “obviously” increase housing costs.