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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 99-16
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Wednesday
Or contact your local HUD officeJanuary 20, 1999


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WASHINGTON - America's homeownership rate hit a record annual high in 1998, with 66.3 percent of all households owning their own homes, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced today.

A total of 69.1 million families owned homes at the end of 1998, Cuomo said - 7.3 million more than when President Clinton took office in 1993.

"More American families owned homes in 1998 than in any year in U.S. history, including more minorities than ever," Cuomo said. "As a result of President Clinton's policies, homeownership has been transformed from an impossible dream into a beautiful reality for millions of our people. All across this country, low interest rates, low unemployment, business prosperity and our homeownership initiatives are turning renters into homeowners."

The percentage of households owning their homes jumped from 64 percent in 1993 to a record 65.7 percent in 1997 before hitting the new homeownership rate record of 66.3 percent last year, according to Census Bureau statistics.

A total of 41 percent of the net new homeowners since 1994 are minorities - even though minorities account for just 24 percent of the population.

Here's how the homeownership rate has risen since 1993, measuring the percentage of all households owning their own homes and then listing breakdowns by major racial and ethnic groups, as well as location:

1993 1997 1998
NATION OVERALL 64.0 65.7 66.3
WHITE (non-Hispanic) 70.2 72.0 72.6
BLACK (non-Hispanic) 42.0 45.4 46.1
HISPANIC 39.4 43.3 44.7
CENTRAL CITIES 48.6 49.9 50.0
SUBURBS 70.3 72.8 73.6

The homeownership rate for the fourth quarter of 1998 also set a new record for a fourth quarter, hitting 66.4 percent - breaking the record fourth quarter high of 65.7 percent set in 1997.

1998 was also the first year that the central city homeownership rate hit the 50 percent mark. Central cities are defined as the largest communities in a metropolitan area.

In addition to hitting annual record highs in 1998, the African American and Hispanic homeownership rates continued growing twice as fast as the white homeownership rate, but still lagged too far behind, Cuomo said.

"We're working to open the door to homeownership for more Americans, no matter who they are and no matter where they live," Cuomo said. "Our goal is to shrink the vast homeownership gap dividing minorities from whites and dividing cities from their surrounding communities. Homeownership isn't a special privilege reserved for white suburbanites."

The 1998 annual homeownership rate also increased in all four regions of the country to the following percentage rates:

1993 1997 1998
NORTHEAST 61.8 62.4 62.6
MIDWEST 67.1 70.5 71.1
SOUTH 65.7 68.0 68.6
WEST 59.9 59.6 60.5

Homeownership has many benefits. Homeowners generally enjoy better living conditions than renters; accumulate wealth as their investment in their homes grows; strengthen the economy by purchases of homes, furniture and appliances; and tend to be more involved in promoting strong neighborhoods and good schools than renters.

For many families, taking a second mortgage on a home is a way of financing a new family business or a college education for a child. When parents who own a home die, the home is usually the most valuable asset they pass on to their children and helps the next generation find economic security.

While the booming economy and low mortgage interest rates have been the main factors in the growth in homeownership, Cuomo said Clinton Administration homeownership programs have also increased homeownership and will continue to do so in the future. For example:

  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is part of HUD, insured about 1 million home mortgages in 1998, and has insured about 5.5 million home mortgages since 1993. Without FHA insurance, many families would be unable to get mortgages to become homeowners. On Jan. 1 this year, FHA began insuring home mortgage loans of up to $115,200 in communities where housing costs are relatively low and loans ranging up to $208,800 in communities where housing costs are high. This was the second increase in the loan limits since October 1998 - and will open up homeownership to more families in the years ahead.

  • HUD's crackdown on housing discrimination, which was ordered by President Clinton, is opening up new housing opportunities to minorities. HUD has doubled its enforcement actions involving housing discrimination to a rate of 60 to 70 per month, compared with less than 30 enforcement actions per month during the Clinton Administration's first term. HUD is also conducting a major study of housing discrimination around the country as part of its continuing efforts to eliminate discrimination that stands as a barrier to minority homeownership.

  • The National Partners in Homeownership - a coalition of 66 national groups representing the housing industry, lenders, non-profit groups and all sectors of government - was created in 1995 as part of President Clinton's National Homeownership Strategy. The Partners have successfully implemented initiatives to make buying a home more affordable, faster and easier. Activities to increase homeownership are also being carried out by 153 local homeownership partnerships established to support the national strategy. Among the activities developed by the partners are homeownership counseling sessions, homebuying fairs, and help with locating homes.

  • HUD is beginning a homeownership voucher program this year that will allow as many as 50,000 families to use their Section 8 rental assistance vouchers to become first-time homebuyers. Under the initiative, the same HUD funds now going to help pay a family's rent will instead be used for the family's monthly mortgage payments. Participating families must have income from employment, contribute funds for a downpayment, and receive a mortgage loan from a conventional lending institution.

  • The Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law that requires lenders to make loans to all segments of the communities they serve, has resulted in some $1 trillion in loans to people in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods since it was enacted in 1977. A significant portion of these funds has been used for mortgage lending that has boosted homeownership.

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