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Trying to buy a house is ‘playing a game you can’t win’

The issue is feeding into wider worries about rising living costs, which have jumped 20% since 2021.

It is among the biggest challenges facing President Joe Biden, whose time in office has coincided with the housing market’s transformation and who receives dismal ratings for his handling of the economy in national polls.

Challenger Donald Trump, who fares better, has sought to blame Mr Biden for inflation, and though he does not typically call out housing specifically, he regularly spotlights “skyrocketing” interest rates to argue that the economy is heading in the wrong direction.

“Inflation has been a political noose for Biden in recent years,” says Brian Connolly, professor of business law at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, whose work focuses on housing issues. “Housing costs are another place where people are experiencing this financial squeeze.”

In recent months, the White House has tried to address concerns about affordability head on, offering proposals such as rules to limit closing costs and a $10,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers.

It marks a shift in tone, after years of focusing on the economy’s strengths, including low unemployment. But with few immediate levers for Mr Biden to pull, it’s not clear the efforts are resonating.

His support has especially eroded among younger people – whose record turnout in 2020 helped put him in office. Voters in this demographic are least likely to own homes and most likely to see housing affordability as a top concern.

“I don’t see any platform that purposely looks out for somebody like first-time homebuyers, wanting to ease their pain,” says Braiden Dogherty, a 30-year-old from Florida who works in manufacturing and has been checking for houses daily for three years.

Despite a $50,000 inheritance, no debt, and decent jobs, he and his wife can’t find an affordable two-bedroom near their families in the Orlando area.

He says the problem of housing costs is too big to blame on any one politician or party, but the seeming lack of solutions has contributed to his wider political disillusionment. He is uncertain how he will vote in November.

“I’m fed up,” he says. “Housing is part of it.”

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