Earlier this year, President Joe Biden proposed bringing back the first-time homebuyer tax credit; this time with a max of $15,000 per buyer that would go toward the down payment on a home.
The first-time homebuyer credit was first launched in 2008 following the Great Recession but expired about ten years ago. The terms of this previous tax credit included having to pay back the funds over time. It is not yet known if Biden’s proposal will include similar terms.
Zillow recently released a report finding that a $15,000 tax credit could cover the entire down payment for homes in 40 of the 50 largest U.S. metros. The company found that with a 3.5% down payment on a 30-year mortgage with a 3% interest rate, about 9.3 million renter households in the U.S. (27.4%) would spend less than a third of their income on the monthly payment for the median home sold in their metro in 20202.
In more affordable metros, this could be a boon for renters. For example, in Pittsburgh 40.5% could afford a median mortgage—Cincinnati (39.7%), Cleveland (39.0%) and St. Louis (38.5%). In more expensive metros like Los Angeles, that drops down to 10.1%—some of the smallest share of renters could afford a mortgage, but the program would still significantly impact thousands in those regions, according to Zillow
“Legislation that reduces barriers to homeownership could allow millions of renter households to finally enjoy the stability and wealth-building owning a home can provide,” said Zillow Economic Analyst Alexandra Lee.
A tax credit such as the one proposed by Biden could bring added challenges, however. According to Zillow, it could disproportionately benefit white and Asian Americans who are better positioned to buy because of better access to credit and higher incomes. Additionally, the inventory shortage and rising home prices could render this type of tax credit useless for those who need it most.