HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 01-054
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For Release
June 07, 2001


en español

Secretary Martinez's remarks to the United Nations general assembly

UNITED NATIONS - In a special session of the U.N. General Assembly, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez today recognized the progress made in expanding homeownership opportunities in the United States and acknowledged the challenges all nations face with rapid urban growth. Martinez said that solutions dictated by government alone will not work, but highlighted the critical role that individuals and families play in shaping their own destinies.

Martinez spoke to international housing ministers on the fifth anniversary of the Habitat II global conference held in Istanbul. That conference produced the Habitat Agenda which provided the framework for discussion of global housing issues.

"Within the next three decades, more than 60 percent of the world's citizens will live in urban settings, most of them in developing countries ill-equipped to handle the housing needs of so many people," said Martinez. "We have decades of experience in creating solutions - not federal solutions, but solutions developed in partnership with private enterprise and local communities."

Martinez, head of the U.S. delegation, outlined four cornerstones of U.S. housing policy:

  • Access to capital
  • Federal support of the housing market
  • Citizen participation in creating local housing rules; and,
  • A strong legal system to protect tenants and homebuyers.

We call it the American Dream, the freedom to pursue success and prosperity, however the individual defines it for him or herself. But access to housing, equal opportunities in choosing a place to live, and the right to own property and pass it on to our heirs are certainly at its core," said Martinez.

Martinez also presented THE UNITED STATES-HABITAT II PROGRESS REPORT which outlines progress made in the United States since the Habitat Agenda was adopted five years ago and offers recommendations for future action.

The Bush Administration is proposing several initiatives to increase housing opportunities for all Americans, particularly minority families and those with special needs. For example, the President is proposing a $200 million American Dream Downpayment Fund and is expanding the Section 8 Homeownership Program to assist low-income families overcome the initial costs of buying a home.

"Expanding the number of homeowners remains a national priority, because we understand that homeownership is at the root of good citizenship," explained Martinez. "It plays a vital role in creating strong neighborhoods by turning short-term tenants into long-term community stakeholders. In helping families build wealth, homeownership creates financial security and peace of mind."

The United States is also planning to expand its rental assistance program to help an additional 34,000 families find decent housing. The Administration plans to increase funding to enforce the nation's fair housing laws to help ensure all Americans have equal access to rental housing and homeownership. In addition, Martinez stressed the need to continue to provide for the special needs of the elderly, homeless, disabled and persons with HIV/AIDS.

To better manage the booming growth in many parts of the United States, HUD will host a national dialogue on growth management issues and will help develop tools for local communities to maintain their Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control Programs.

The U.S. government will continue its commitment to the Community Development Block Grant Program and like-minded programs which allow greater flexibility on the local level to help support low-income communities and spur job opportunities and economic development.

The President's faith-based initiative will be vigorously pursued to expand the role of faith-based organizations, giving them greater access to federal funds for housing, community development and social service initiatives.

"We are eager to share what we have learned and we continue to reach beyond our borders to form strong partnerships with our global neighbors," Martinez added.

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