HUD No. 07-038
April 10, 2007
HUD SECRETARY DISCUSSES FAIR HOUSING IN ONLINE WHITE HOUSE FORUM
Jackson highlights the President's commitment to equal housing access for all individuals
WASHINGTON - U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson today discussed National Fair Housing Month with citizens who participated in the "Ask the White House" online interactive forum. During the online discussion, Jackson answered questions about the Bush Administration's efforts to confront discrimination and ensure all Americans have equal access to housing.
Below are some of the Secretary's comments during the online session.
Joe, from Odessa, Texas writes:
What is Fair Housing Month?
Thanks for the question, Joe. Used to create awareness, Fair Housing Month is designed to educate individuals about the rights they have under the Fair Housing Act, and to promote the principles of equal opportunity in housing to those in the housing industry (realtors, landlords, property managers, etc.). This month marks its 39th Anniversary, which coincides with the month the law was passed, April 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to deny housing based on familial status, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, and sex.
Anne, from Gladstone, MO writes:
When was the Fair Housing Act passed and what is the purpose of the legislation? Thanks
Hi, Anne. The Fair Housing Act, which was enacted in April 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. A top priority of HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is creating equal housing opportunities for every resident of this nation. One of the primary ways HUD accomplishes this goal is by aggressively enforcing the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. In Fiscal Year 2006 (October 2005-October 2006), HUD received more than 10,000 fair housing complaints, the highest number ever received in a single year. Forty percent of the complaints alleged race discrimination, while 40 percent alleged discrimination based on disability.
William, from Southern Pines, NC writes:
I am concerned about increased homeownership, especially among minorities. What has the President done over the past five years on this issue?
I'm glad you asked, William. In 2002, President Bush set a goal of creating 5.5 million new minority homeowners by the year 2010. We are already more than halfway to that goal, with nearly 3.5 million new minority families having become homeowners since the President issued his challenge. This is good news, but we can do better. HUD is stepping up its efforts to create better, safer and fairer housing opportunities for every American, particularly minorities, by looking at every aspect of the home buying process. Specifically, HUD has looked into traditional and non-traditional lenders, insurance companies, and agents to ensure the Fair Housing Act is not being violated.
In addition, HUD has enacted several initiatives to ensure that we meet President Bush's goal by 2010 and help families stay in their homes. These initiatives include:
- The American Dream Downpayment Initiative (ADDI) provides closing cost and downpayment assistance to low-income homebuyers. Since 2003 when it was created, the program has helped more than 21,000 low-income families with dowpayment assistance, fifty percent of whom are minorities.
- HUD's Homeownership Voucher Program allows families with Section 8 vouchers to use their vouchers to help with mortgage payments. Families approved for the Section 8 homeownership vouchers can switch from rental assistance to mortgage assistance when they are ready to buy a house. Since the program's inception in 2000, more than 7,500 former public housing residents have become homeowners. The President's 2008 budget calls for additional funds to assist 10,000 additional families to become homeowners.
- HUD's Housing Counseling program educates potential homebuyers so that they better understand their housing rights, whether buying or leasing. An educated consumer is much less likely to be taken advantage of or to enter into overly expensive housing transactions. The President's budget for FY 2008 proposes $50 million for housing counseling, which can help about 600,000 more families prepare financially for homeownership, get their credit scores in order, and learn how to avoid predatory lending and mortgage default.
- HUD's Federal Housing Administration is undergoing a historic transformation to give homebuyers who do not qualify for prime financing a better alternative to high-cost, high-risk loan products. Many of these types of non-traditional mortgages lead to high foreclosure rates. The Budget presented to Congress in February continues the legislative proposal to modernize the FHA's mortgage insurance program so that tens of thousands of potential homebuyers have access to a safer financing tool.
- Specific to Native Americans, HUD offers the Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program (Section 184), which is designed to offer homeownership, property rehabilitation, and new construction opportunities for eligible tribes, Indian Housing Authorities and Native American individuals and families wanting to own a home on trust land or land located in an approved Indian or Alaska Native area.
Rob, from Washington D.C. writes:
Lately, it feels like I've heard a lot of lawmakers say that they expect more than 2 million people to lose their homes over the next year and a half due to foreclosures. Does that number sound right to you? Do you think lawmakers need to step in to stop some of these foreclosures?
Hi, Rob. One family losing a home is one too many. I sincerely hope two million is wrong. I have asked the Government Sponsored Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to do everything they can to assist help families keep their homes. We are doing the same at the Federal Housing Administration. Our loss mitigation measures are proving very effective in keeping families in their homes. The most important step families can take is to seek housing counseling and work with their lenders to prevent foreclosures. There may be some things that lawmakers can do but housing counseling and 'reading the fine' print are imperative.
To read the Secretary's full online conversation visit: www.whitehouse.gov
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing.
HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development, and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and espanol.hud.gov. For more information about FHA products, please visit www.fha.gov.