President George W. Bush Speaks to HUD Employees
on National Homeownership Month
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all very much for that kind welcome. I'm here for a couple of reasons. First, I want to thank you all for your service to the greatest nation on the face of the Earth. (Applause.) I'm here to celebrate National Homeownership Month, because I believe owning a home is an essential part of economic security. And I'm concerned about the security of America. (Applause.)
HUD is an "important agency
," President Bush said. He thanked HUD employees and praised the Secretary and Deputy. I had the pleasure on June the 12th of speaking to the last President who visited HUD. I wish number 41 a happy birthday. (Applause.) And I'm glad you've invited me here today, I really am. I first am really proud of Mel Martinez and Alphonso Jackson. I've known Mel for a while, I've known Alphonso for a long time. There was no question in my mind that these two fine Americans would do a great job in leading this important agency. (Applause.)
Let me first talk about how to make sure America is secure from a group of killers, people who hate
-- you know what they hate? They hate the idea that somebody can go buy a home. They hate freedom; that's what they hate. They hate the fact that we worship freely. They don't like the thought of Christian, Jew and Muslim living side by side in peace. They don't like that at all. And therefore, they -- since they resent our freedoms, they feel like they should take out their resentment by destroying innocent lives. And this country will do everything we can possibly do to protect America. (Applause.)
We also have got to understand, in this land of plenty, there are pockets of hopelessness and despair. You know, I mentioned the word American Dream
in Atlanta. I also recognize that some people aren't sure that dream extends to them. Some people don't even know what the dream means. And our job -- our jobs, our collective jobs, is to make sure that notion of the American Dream extends into every single neighborhood around this country.
But I believe owning something is a part of the American Dream, as well. I believe when somebody owns their own home, they're realizing the American Dream.
They can say it's my home, it's nobody else's home. (Applause.) And we saw that yesterday in Atlanta, when we went to the new homes of the new homeowners. And I saw with pride firsthand, the man say, welcome to my home. He didn't say, welcome to government's home; he didn't say, welcome to my neighbor's home; he said, welcome to my home. I own the home, and you're welcome to come in the home, and I appreciate it. (Applause.) He was a proud man. He was proud that he owns the property. And I was proud for him. And I want that pride to extend all throughout our country.
One of the things that we've got to do is to address problems straight on and deal with them in a way that helps us meet goals. And so I want to talk about a couple of goals and -- one goal and a problem.
The goal is, everybody who wants to own a home has got a shot at doing so. The problem is we have what we call a homeownership gap in America. Three-quarters of Anglos own their homes, and yet less than 50 percent of African Americans and Hispanics own homes. That ownership gap signals that something might be wrong in the land of plenty. And we need to do something about it.
We are here in Washington, D.C. to address problems. So I've set this goal for the country. We want 5.5 million more homeowners by 2010 -- million more minority homeowners by 2010. (Applause.) Five-and-a-half million families by 2010 will own a home. That is our goal. It is a realistic goal. But it's going to mean we're going to have to work hard to achieve the goal, all of us. And by all of us, I mean not only the federal government, but the private sector, as well.
And so I want to, one, encourage you to do everything you can to work in a realistic, smart way to get this done. I repeat, we're here for a reason. And part of the reason is to make this dream extend everywhere.
I'm going to do my part by setting the goal, by reminding people of the goal, by heralding the goal, and by calling people into action, both the federal level, state level, local level, and in the private sector. (Applause.)
And so what are the barriers that we can deal with here in Washington? Well, probably the single barrier to first-time homeownership is high down payments. People take a look at the down payment, they say that's too high,
I'm not buying. They may have the desire to buy, but they don't have the wherewithal to handle the down payment. We can deal with that. And so I've asked Congress to fully fund an American Dream down payment fund which will help a low-income family to qualify to buy, to buy.
The second barrier to ownership is the lack of affordable housing
. There are neighborhoods in America where you just can't find a house that's affordable to purchase, and we need to deal with that problem. The best way to do so, I think, is to set up a single family affordable housing tax credit to the tune of $2.4 billion over the next five years to encourage affordable single family housing in inner-city America. (Applause.)
The third problem is the fact that the rules are too complex
. People get discouraged by the fine print on the contracts. They take a look and say, well, I'm not so sure I want to sign this. There's too many words. (Laughter.) There's too many pitfalls. So one of the things that the Secretary is going to do is he's going to simplify the closing documents and all the documents that have to deal with homeownership.
Finally, we want to make sure the Section 8 homeownership program is fully implemented. This is a program that provides vouchers for first-time home buyers which they can use for down payments and/or mortgage payments.
So this is an ambitious start here at the federal level. And, again, I repeat, you all need to help us every way you can. But the private sector needs to help, too. They need to help, too. Of course, it's in their interest. If you're a realtor, it's in your interest that somebody be interested in buying a home. If you're a homebuilder, it's in your interest that somebody be interested in buying a home.
And so, therefore, I've called -- yesterday, I called upon the private sector to help us and help the home buyers. We need more capital in the private markets for first-time, low-income buyers. And I'm proud to report that Fannie Mae has heard the call and, as I understand, it's about $440 billion over a period of time. They've used their influence to create that much capital available for the type of home buyer we're talking about here. It's in their charter; it now needs to be implemented. Freddie Mac is interested in helping. I appreciate both of those agencies providing the underpinnings of good capital.