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Fed chair faces Senate questioning as interest rates at 15-year high

Federal Reserve Powell
Posted at 6:27 AM, Mar 07, 2023

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will testify to the Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee this week as his agency has continued to increase interest rates to fight inflation.

This will be Powell’s first visit before the committee since last June. When Powell last appeared before the committee, he had just increased the Federal Funds rate from 0.75%-1% to 1.5%-1.75%. After a series of interest rate increases, the rate now stands at 4.5%-4.75%, its highest mark in 15 years.

The interest rate hikes are an attempt to quell high inflation. Powell has said the Fed’s goal is to get inflation to 2% annually.

According to data released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,the 12-month inflation rate dropped by 0.1% to 6.4%. Updated figures for February will be released next week.

The high federal interest rate has a profound impact on borrowers trying to buy a home. According to federal data, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate has more than doubled in the last year to 6.65%.

This has perhaps led to a decline in new home construction, as new builds dropped 27% from January 2022 to January 2023, according to U.S. Census data.

Democratic members of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee called upon the Biden administration last week to use the annual federal budget to increase lagging housing construction.

“In your Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Proposal, we urge you to maximize available federal resources — across all relevant agencies — to increase the supply of safe, accessible, affordable homes; lower rental housing cost burdens; and expand access to affordable homeownership so that families can build wealth and older adults, grandfamilies, and people with disabilities can live safely in their communities,” the senators wrote. “We also urge your Administration to undertake further efforts to ensure that the resources Congress has already made available are utilized to support communities’ comprehensive planning and economic development goals, including to address local affordable housing needs.”