Home | En Español | Contact Us | A to Z 

National Association of Hispanic
Real Estate Professionals
Legislative Conference

Remarks as prepared for delivery by
Secretary Alphonso Jackson
Washington, DC

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

I appreciate your very generous introduction, Gary. You continue to bring strong leadership to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. HUD had a great partnership with the Association under Secretary Martinez, and that's something I intend to build on beginning today.

I want to welcome your members to Washington. I was hoping that I'd be able to join you here, but we were waiting for the Senate to approve my nomination and had no idea when that might happen. It turns out there's a reason they call the Senate "the more deliberative body." But they came through late last week, and I'm honored to be here today making my first public speech as HUD's new Secretary.

I know you're interested in hearing about the Administration's work to expand minority homeownership. Well, let me tell you: this is a great time to be talking about homeownership in America.

The economy's getting stronger. More than 300,000 new jobs were created last month. Incomes are rising. And thanks to President Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, Americans have more to save, spend, and invest.

The President has seized this opportunity, and is encouraging more families to buy their first homes. In fact, President Bush has done more than any other president in HUD's nearly 40-year-history to focus the attention of the nation on the power of homeownership.

I've heard the President talk many times about his vision of an "ownership society" in which every person has the opportunity to own a home. The President believes passionately that homeownership is the key to financial independence, the accumulation of wealth, and stronger, healthier communities.

In other words, owning a home is a family's quickest path to self-sufficiency. And I believe there's nothing more important that government can do for a family than to help them become self-sufficient.

I was with the President in Pennsylvania last month and we were talking with families about homeownership. The President said, "We think it's in the best interests of the country that more people own something. When you own something you call your own, you have a vital stake in the future of our nation."

A record number of Americans - nearly 69 percent of us - now own a home. For the first time ever, more than half of all minority households own homes in their communities.

Despite our success, however, Hispanics and other minorities aren't sharing equally in the homeownership dream. In fact, there's a "homeownership gap" in this country, and minority families are far less likely to own a home. We face a particular challenge in the Hispanic community, where homeownership has actually dropped a full percentage point since peaking at 48.8 percent at the end of 2001.

President Bush believes that people from every walk of life should have an opportunity to become homeowners. So the President took a bold step and challenged the nation to close the homeownership gap and create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by the end of this decade.

We were very proud to welcome the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals on board as an original member of the Blueprint for the American Dream Partnership, which we're now calling the "American Dream Team." The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals is one of more than two dozen major companies, nonprofits, and industry groups that have joined with the Administration to turn the President's goal into reality.

We're well on our way. Since the President issued his homeownership challenge, more than 1.5 million minority families have joined the ranks of the nation's homeowners.

The Association is working alongside us to meet the challenge. I want to commend you for your leadership in promoting financial literacy in the Hispanic community through programs like Counselor MAX and CreditSmart Espanol. And I'm glad to see that you're also focused on educating the industry, through programs that help real estate professionals better serve Hispanic consumers.

Our Administration is significantly boosting funding for housing education. The budget we've proposed for the coming year provides $45 million to help more than a half-million homebuying families with counseling services. We've more than doubled funding for housing counseling since 2001.

Last December, the President signed into law the centerpiece of his homeownership agenda: the American Dream Downpayment Act. Researchers tell us that high downpayments and closing costs represent the single greatest barrier to homeownership. The American Dream Downpayment Act will provide direct assistance to first-time homebuyers, opening the door to homeownership to some 40,000 families every year. Its passage is a victory for every family that has found it impossible until now to come up with enough cash to meet their downpayment and closing costs.

This year, we're asking Congress to fully fund the American Dream Downpayment Initiative at $200 million.

The Administration has proposed legislation to help buyers of FHA-insured homes jump the hurdle of high downpayments. The Zero Downpayment Mortgage would allow consumers who could otherwise afford a monthly mortgage payment to qualify for FHA loans without having to come up with cash at the closing table.

The Zero Down plan is different from assistance programs like the American Dream Downpayment Act. Instead of granting a lump-sum award to qualified homeowners, FHA would charge a modestly higher insurance premium on its Zero Down loans.

To promote the production of affordable housing in areas where it's scarce, the Administration is proposing a Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit.

The President's budget for the coming year would provide developers with nearly $2.4 billion in tax credits to build new homes or rehabilitate existing structures. We have two goals: to create homeownership opportunities in distressed neighborhoods and to revitalize these neighborhoods through increased homeownership.

We're hoping that Congress will enact the Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit this year, and I'd appreciate your support. This is an opportunity to make homeownership a reality for 200,000 families in those areas of the country where affordable homes are needed most.

When I was with President Bush in suburban Philadelphia recently, we saw what owning a piece of the American Dream can do for a family that once considered homeownership nothing more than a fantasy.

For almost four years, Pearl Cerdan had been thinking about buying a home for herself and her six kids. The homebuying process always scared her off, though, and she was worried that her credit rating wasn't good enough to qualify her for a mortgage.

But Pearl heard about the services offered by a local counseling agency and she began taking homeownership classes. She learned money-management skills, too, and how to repair her damaged credit. The counseling service helped her find low-interest financing. Soon she was signing the papers that made her a first-time homebuyer.

On March 15th, Pearl welcomed the President of the United States to her front door. And it was with tremendous pride that she said, "Would you come into my home, please."

By working together, HUD and the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals are helping to write stories like Pearl's each day in this country.

Our work is far from finished, of course. America is the freest nation on the face of the Earth, with endless opportunities for anyone willing to take a risk. I think to myself, "God bless America," each time I return to this country after being away. But pockets of despair remain. Some folks wonder if the American Dream is meant for them, too.

President Bush believes that it's meant for everyone, and he's dedicated to building a society in which every person - every person of every hue - can realize the promise of America.

I look forward to working closely with your Association in the years ahead to lift more Americans toward their dreams. Our work together so far has yielded great results, but I know that we can do more together.

Thank you for your commitment. And thank you for the opportunity to spend time with you this afternoon.


Content Archived: January 20, 2009

FOIA Privacy Web Policies and Important Links [logo: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity]
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
Telephone: (202) 708-1112 TTY: (202) 708-1455