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HUD No. 02-068
(202) 708-0685
June 20, 2002

Cabinet Secretaries Meet New Homeowners in Rural Community

TROY, Mo. - The Harris and Hanks families are proof positive that when the public and private sectors work together, Americans of all backgrounds and income levels reap the benefits.

With the help of loans from Peoples Bank and the Agriculture Department, as well as valuable housing counseling from the North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC), a HUD-certified counseling agent, the Harris' and Hanks' are now first-time homeowners.

On Thursday, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Mel Martinez and Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ann Veneman met the families at the Harris' newly constructed Oak Forest Drive residence to congratulate them on becoming homeowners.

"Owning a home is the cornerstone of the American Dream," Martinez said. "Earlier this week, the President set an ambitious goal to increase the number of minority homeowners by 5.5 million by the year 2010. To reach that goal, we need strong public-private partnerships similar to this one that has helped these families move into their first home."

As HUD celebrates National Homeownership Month, families throughout America are becoming first-time homeowners with the help of public-private partnerships and counseling to help them advance through the complicated homebuying process.

"President Bush has put forth a bold initiative to expand homeownership opportunities throughout America," said Veneman. "Through these type of public-private partnerships, we are working together to help families in rural America realize the dream of homeownership."

The Harris family - Richard and Kristina, and children Blake and Trenton - received a $22,745 loan from Missouri-based Peoples Bank and a $68,225 loan from the USDA. The Hanks family - single-mom Pamela and children Timothy, Matthew and Nicholas - received a $23,370 loan from Peoples and a $70,100 loan from the USDA.

For the Harris', the result of this combined effort was a 1,008-sq.-foot, three-bedroom home that features a two-car garage and a basement. The Hanks are the proud owners of a new home right down the street.

HUD released a report earlier this week detailing significant barriers to homeownership, including many that affect rural communities. Among these obstacles are high down payment and closing costs, limited supply of affordable housing, and a confusing and intimidating homebuying process.

While in Troy, Martinez highlighted the Bush Administration's housing initiatives designed to break down those barriers, which include: 1) the American Dream Downpayment Fund, aimed at helping 40,000 families each year with down payment cost, including more than 750 eligible families in Missouri; 2) a single-family tax credit, designed to increase the supply of affordable homes; and 3) a housing counseling program to help families through the home buying process and to educate them against unscrupulous lenders.

The President also put forth "America's Homeownership Challenge," a call to the real estate industry, the mortgage finance industry and non-profits to join with the administration in expanding homeownership opportunities across the nation.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet.

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