June 20th, 2017

As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.

Thanks so much for inviting me to speak to you today, especially all the organizers of this Summit and the many member companies of the Associated Builders and Contractors who have made it possible.

I'd particularly like to thank your President and CEO, Mike Bellaman, your Chairman Chuck Goodrich, and Larry Lopez, Chair of the ABC Diversity Committee. It's a pleasure to be here.

One of the oldest mottos of the United States of America is "E Pluribus Unum"-"Out of Many, One."

It was used by Congress in 1782, before even our Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written.

It means that from the very beginning, our nation was home to a diversity of backgrounds that were unified into one community and one purpose.

Of course, this one community was not open to everyone from the beginning.

Over the ages, it took brave men and women fighting to protect the freedom and the rights of the "many," so that our "one" could become larger and greater.

And after wars, marches, and movements ... after bloodshed and tears shed, we have the most diverse and inclusive country on the planet.

The promise of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" has been expanded to its rightful heirs in America: every person of every race and creed and gender.

And that's something we should all be proud of.

But it does not mean we can rest on our laurels. We must be ever vigilant to protect our Constitutional rights, and preserve an inclusive society.

Nor can we let diversity give way to division. They're similar words, but they have very different effects: in diversity, we come together by celebrating our differences. In division, we are pried apart because of them.

These days, we've seen some unfortunate division in our society. Sometimes we're so busy arguing about the news that outrages us, that it can distract society from its most important goals: giving shelter to the homeless, lifting up the poor, and protecting the vulnerable.

Abraham Lincoln said that a House divided against itself cannot stand.

With apologies to our 16th President, I'd like to flip that a little for people in this room today:

A country divided against itself cannot build housing that will stand the test of time.

But if we concentrate on coming together through our differences, we will better serve more people who need it.

This means not only celebrating diversity of ancestry, but of thought and conviction. It means presuming that Americans on both sides of the aisle earnestly want to help their communities-and that if we have disagreements, they are in good faith.

We must be inclusive, so that we may serve a diverse people.

Our goal at HUD is the ensure that all Americans have access to safe, fair, affordable housing. Ever since our founding 52 years ago, we've take on discrimination cases and worked to build communities where nobody suffers for the color of their skin or the language they speak-and where no-one would think to turn them away because of it.

Now, we also need to make the American Dream of homeownership inclusive again.

Since 1934, the Federal Housing Administration and HUD have helped transform that dream into a reality for more than 46 million households.

Last year, one and a quarter million families closed on homes with help from FHA. That's more than a 60 percent increase since 2014.

But several weeks ago, while the Census Bureau reported modest gains in the homeownership rate for some groups, the nation's overall homeownership rate continued to hover near 30-year lows.

Homeownership has become an economic glass ceiling for many families-and for the glaziers in attendance, I'm not talking about a neat construction feature.

I am particularly concerned that Millennials, many of whom came of age during the housing crisis of the last decade, are buying homes later and later in life, or not at all.

The causes are partly cultural, and partly economic. But we cannot risk creating a "Lost Generation" of homeowners.

Better jobs, fewer regulations, lower taxes, a strong economy, and many other factors will assist young people saving to buy homes, and allow the companies building and selling them to do so more affordably.

Achieving these goals is going to take a lot of cooperation with other federal departments, from Commerce, to Labor, to Interior. It's going to rely on initiatives like the Joint Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which we just helped kick off last week with a dozen other agencies.

And it's going to take legislation by a Congress dedicated to prosperity and free enterprise over gridlock.

But in the meantime, we'll have our work cut out for us.

The President has declared June to be National Homeownership Month, a time for us to recognize the abiding value of owning a home and rededicate ourselves toward ensuring that every hardworking and responsible American receives a fair chance to do so.

I'm looking forward to using this special Month as a platform to educate Americans about loans and other assistance available to them through HUD programs.

We are also working on proposed rules which would greatly assist in homeownership and in re-introducing Americans to the workforce who most need it. We cannot comment on specifics before they're finalized, but I can give you broad strokes:

In accordance with the Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act of 2016, the Federal Housing Authority is looking at rules to broaden FHA approval to different types of properties like condominiums, and make it easier for qualified recipients to get loans.

This reflects modern realities about the types of housing, especially first homes, that Americans are buying.

I'm also very invested in expanding our Section III program. As many of you probably know, Section III says that if your initiative receives a certain type of financial assistance from HUD, wherever possible you are to give job training and work opportunities to people in those same communities.

Our revamp would remove some of the challenges builders face in hiring low-income housing residents, and expand the program for use by more small businesses.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, creating a prosperous, inclusive society can only be accomplished with the participation of groups like yours.

In the past two months, I have spoken to private business coalitions like the National Housing Conference, National Association of Realtors, American Land Title Association, and Federal Home Loan Banks. And now, your wonderful Association. Among all of them, I have seen such a heartening dedication to solving housing problems in America, and strengthening private industry while maximizing public benefit.

We need this, because the government cannot artificially create prosperity. That is what Americans and their businesses do.

And while the government can fight discrimination and unfairness, it cannot artificially create goodwill and love between our fellow citizens from far away in a Washington boardroom. That is also for individual Americans to do.

I see that goodwill in this room today.

I see so many people who recognize that we are indeed "E pluribus Unum..."

We are, out of many, "one nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."


Content Archived: January 2, 2019