June 10, 2003
HUD ANNOUNCES INITIATIVE TO FOCUS ON REDUCING REGULATORY BARRIERS
Bryant Applegate to Lead Department-wide Affordable Housing Effort
WASHINGTON - In an effort to break down regulatory barriers that impede the production of affordable housing, HUD announced a Department-wide initiative that will harness the existing HUD resources to develop the tools needed to measure and reduce the effects of excessive barriers that restrict the development of affordable housing at the local level.
"By breaking down regulatory barriers at all levels of government, we are creating an environment to increasing minority homeownership," said HUD Secretary Mel Martinez. "While nearly 70 percent of all American households are homeowners, less than half of African-American and Hispanic families own their own homes. We are convinced that homeownership strengthens our families and our communities."
The new initiative has its roots in the Department's renewed emphasis on creating more affordable housing to meet the nation's growing demands. Last year, for example, HUD announced the creation of the Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse, a step designed to create more affordable housing opportunities. The web-based forum offers builders and developers from around the country the ability to share ideas and solutions for overcoming state and local regulatory barriers to affordable housing. And more recently, the President has proposed for HUD's 2004 budget $2.1 billion - a $113 million or five percent increase - for the HOME Program, which will help more than 600 state and local communities finance the costs of land acquisition, new construction, rehabilitation and down payment assistance.
"Today's announcement highlights Secretary Martinez's commitment to breaking down the regulatory barriers and creating more affordable housing in local communities," HUD Senior Counsel Bryant Applegate, who directs the initiative.
As part of that effort, HUD will continue to collect and analyze federal, state and local regulations and procedures that are duplicative, contradictory or burdensome. The initiative will include regular input from senior officials throughout the Department.
The announcement coincides with Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson's visit to St. Paul, MN, that marks the initial stages of rejuvenating Railroad Island, an older neighborhood on the eastern outskirts downtown St. Paul. This project, which now consists of 11 homes, is part of the more than 150 homes that will be redeveloped during the next four years. At least half of the homes will be reserved for buyers with less than 80 percent of the area median income.
The trip to St. Paul was the latest stop for HUD's "Homeownership Express," a national bus tour delivering information about housing counseling, down-payment assistance, flexible mortgage financing and other resources for becoming a homeowner to communities nationwide.
The Bush Administration has developed numerous initiatives that will help more families to become homeowners. These initiatives include:
- American Dream Downpayment Fund. This program provides $200 million to
help an estimated 40,000 low-income families a year to become first-time homeowners.
- Housing Counseling Assistance Program. This program earmarks $45 million
for counseling services to help an estimated 250,000 lower-income Americans
buy and maintain a home or rent affordable housing.
- Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership. Through this program, HUD allows
local housing agencies the flexibility to use rental assistance vouchers toward
moving low-income families into homeownership.
- Single-Family Affordable Tax Credit. To stimulate the production of affordable
homes in distressed communities where such housing is scarce, the Administration
has proposed a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the cost of new construction
or rehabilitation. This tax credit targets low-income households earning less
than 80 percent of an area's median income.
- Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). President Bush has proposed $65 million to fund so-called "sweat equity" homeownership programs. This proposal will provide grants that support nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity, which requires low-income families to help construct the homes they will eventually own.
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.