Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Charlotte Press Conference

Charlotte, North Carolina
Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Prepared Remarks for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan at the Charlotte Press Conference Charlotte, North Carolina Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Thank you. It's great to be here in Charlotte today to talk about the Recovery Act and the thousands of dollars in tax benefits it is providing to North Carolina families like the Knights through the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit.

And I want to thank everyone, particularly Mayor Foxx, Jennifer Roberts and Congressman Mel Watt -- for his partnership and for his commitment to providing opportunity to every Charlotte family.

When President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law thirteen months ago, it was designed to do three things: create jobs, help those harmed by the economic crisis, and lay a new foundation to make America competitive in the 21st century economy.

For North Carolina, it has provided $256 million in Recovery funds at a time when it has been so needed -- creating jobs for hard-working families and stabilizing communities from Charlotte to Greensboro to Raleigh.

When we think about all that the Recovery Act has invested in our communities, we think about how it extended and increased unemployment insurance for 12 million Americans, how it is helping states like North Carolina avoid having to lay off police officers, teachers and firefighters, and how it made COBRA available at a cheaper rate for people who had lost their jobs.

And with the historic law President Obama just signed, Americans will now have the security and stability of knowing their health care will be there when they need it.

But with tax season upon us, we're here today to highlight the fact that over a third of the Recovery Act was comprised of tax benefits -- tax cuts that put more money in families' pockets and make it cheaper for them to invest in energy-saving home improvements, purchase new vehicles or buy a home.

In all, the Recovery Act cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. It provided $400 to $800 to families through the Making Work Pay tax credit -- $37 billion in tax relief for 110 million working families in 2009.

It provided tax savings of up to $2,500 to pay for college expenses with the American Opportunity Credit.

And it provided up to $1,500 in tax credits for home energy-efficiency improvements.

Of the dozen Recovery Act tax benefits available to families this tax season, the most important for Andre Knight and his family was the expansion of the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit.

Back in 2008, Congress, with the help of Congressman Watt, created a First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit to support our housing market and ensure that families continued to have the ability to purchase a home.

But with passage of the Recovery Act, the homebuyer tax credit was increased to $8,000 -- and made fully refundable, so that no matter how much or how little you owe in taxes, you would receive the full amount in your refund.

We're here today because of what this tax credit meant to the Knight family and the surrounding neighborhood.

Not long ago, Andre Knight and his son lived in public housing. And this home, like so many others in this neighborhood, was vacant -- yet another victim of the housing crisis.

With the help of federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, and Habitat Charlotte with whom Andre completed 200 service hours, this foreclosed property was cleaned up, redeveloped and readied for sale.

But it was because of the $8,000 First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit that Andre could buy this home -- moving from public housing to homeownership, helping bring this neighborhood back and stabilizing our economy.

Here in North Carolina alone, 21,000 people were able to take advantage of the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit in 2009 -- saving a total of $160 million.

Thanks to Congress' extension of the credit late last year, families will have that ability through the end of April -- and I would urge anyone interested to talk to a housing counselor to find out if they might be eligible.

Now, the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit is only one component of our comprehensive efforts to help families and our housing market recover during these tough times.

Just two days ago, the Administration announced North Carolina will receive $159 million for innovative measures to help families struggling with unemployment stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.

And on Friday, President Obama will be here in Charlotte to talk about the economy -- the progress this city and state continue are making and the challenges that lie ahead.

But using tax benefits provided by the Recovery Act, together we are showing that it is possible to turn this crisis into an opportunity -- to promote safe, sustainable homeownership for families like the Knights, stabilize neighborhoods and put cities like Charlotte on the road to economic recovery.

That is our shared goal today -- and I know we all look forward to continuing that progress in the days and weeks ahead.

Thank you.


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