National Association of Homebuilders
Remarks as prepared for delivery by
Board of Directors Meeting
Secretary Alphonso Jackson
Friday, January 14, 2005
Thank you, Bobby, for giving me such a generous introduction. You've been a strong voice for affordable housing throughout your career, and you've brought that same passion to the National Association of Home Builders as its president. I want to commend you for your leadership - and thank you for your friendship.
I also want to thank the Board for inviting me to meet with you. I'm honored to be here; NAHB is one of HUD's major partners, and no organization has worked more closely with us to make housing more affordable to more Americans.
NAHB was one of the first organizations to join the Blueprint Partnership when President Bush challenged us to work together to increase minority homeownership. As partners, we've helped to lift minority homeownership to its highest level ever - just under 51 percent - and we've created nearly 2 million new minority homeowners in the past two years.
We're well on our way to meeting the President's challenge to create 5.5 million minority homeowners by the end of this decade.
NAHB and the nation's homebuilders are a source of strength for the entire nation. President Bush and I want to thank you for the great work you're doing for America.
It's an exciting time in Washington, with the inauguration coming up next week and President Bush preparing to enter his second term. The President has high expectations for the coming year, and he has challenged Members of Congress to work together to achieve "big things for the good of the country."
His agenda includes strengthening Social Security for the next generation, simplifying the tax code, reforming the legal system, and making health care more affordable and accessible.
And expanding homeownership to more families, which is something we care about a great deal at HUD.
Our work this year comes as HUD marks a milestone: in 2005, the Department is celebrating its 40 th anniversary. The official anniversary is in September, but we'll be talking throughout the year about HUD's 40 years of creating opportunities and ownership, and its role in transforming America's communities.
Now, I've never measured an agency's success by the number of programs it runs. Instead, I measure success by the number of people we serve, and the number of families that are living better, more fulfilling lives today because they were helped by the people of HUD at a critical time in their lives.
After 40 years of service, that number runs well into the hundreds of millions.
I've been at HUD nearly four years now, and I've had the opportunity to meet many of those individuals and families in big cities and small towns across America. Some came to HUD for help in fighting housing discrimination. Others were homeless and looking for a way off the streets. Still others were elderly, or sick, or living with a disability, and trying to find housing that could meet their special needs.
But I think the stories that show HUD at its best are the stories of families that have worked their way up to become homeowners with the help of a HUD-approved housing counselor, or an FHA-backed loan, or the downpayment assistance we provided.
Homeownership is the American Dream, and you and I know that homeownership has the power to transform lives and communities. We see it every day.
President Bush and I believe firmly that homeownership is the foundation of an ownership society, and that when a person owns a home, they have a vital stake in the future of our country.
During these past four years, our Administration has built a new federal commitment to homeownership, especially for minority families. That's an important point to make as we look ahead to the Martin Luther King, Junior, holiday. Dr. King devoted his life - and gave his life - to the pursuit of a dream in which blacks stand side by side with whites as equals. Dr. King's dream has been realized in significant ways, and yet not when it comes to homeownership.
Blacks, Hispanics, and other minority populations continue to lag significantly behind whites in homeownership.
As a black American who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s, that is something I am determined to change.
One way we're attacking the problem this year is by once again proposing legislation to create a Zero Downpayment Mortgage for FHA.
Our proposal received broad and bipartisan support in the 108 th Congress. It remains a priority of the President, and I know it's also a top priority of NAHB. I appreciate your support. We expect Zero Down legislation to be reintroduced this year, and we'll continue advocating for it until Congress passes it into law.
This Administration has taken additional steps to boost homeownership through FHA.
For example, in 2003 we eliminated a requirement for pre-approval of Planned Unit Developments before we would insure homes in them. That was an extra - and unnecessary - layer of approval, and I know the industry is happy it's gone. In 2002, we did away with the 10-year home repair warranty requirement. This cut the cost of a home without putting homeowners at risk of repair costs.
Just last week, FHA increased its single-family home mortgage limits by more than seven percent. The new limits will help create more construction, more industry jobs, more economic growth, and of course, more homeowners.
To boost affordable housing production, the Administration is proposing that Congress enact a Homeownership Tax Credit.
The tax credit will encourage the production of homes for moderate-income families, and we estimate that it could create as many as 50,000 more homeowners annually. It will have a significant effect in areas of the country that are experiencing a shortage of affordable housing.
The Homeownership Tax Credit had solid support in Congress last year. We'll continue to work with Members in both chambers, across both sides of the aisle, to enact it. The President has set a goal of increasing the supply of affordable housing by seven million units over the next ten years, and the tax credit would move us significantly closer to reaching that goal.
I couldn't leave here without saying something about RESPA.
Today's rules governing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act are out of date and need to be overhauled.
I've said it before, but let me repeat it: I'm committed to RESPA reform, and I intend to propose new RESPA regulations that simplify the homebuying process and make it less costly for consumers. I'm not ready to predict when that might happen, because I'm more concerned with doing this right than doing it fast.
I want your input, and look forward to receiving it as we move forward. This is our opportunity to make the process of buying and refinancing a home easier, clearer, and cheaper for the American consumer - and I don't intend to let it pass us by.
Expanding homeownership is a central part of my agenda for the coming year, but it represents just one piece of a very large pie. I've made reform of the Section 8 rental assistance program another of my priorities for 2005. Section 8 costs are growing out of control and cannibalizing every HUD program. If we don't solve this problem, all of our programs - including our homeownership efforts - will be in jeopardy.
We'll also continue to focus on ending chronic homelessness, and guiding homeless men, women, and families toward self-sufficiency.
As the Administration enters its second term and HUD marks 40 years of service I have to tell you that I'm energized by the opportunities ahead. President Bush and I are committed in a very profound way to strengthening America's families and communities. And I feel confident that we'll succeed when I look at the partners like NAHB that are working alongside us. You and your colleagues throughout the housing industry truly do the "heavy lifting" on the grassroots level that government could never do on its own.
You're doing important work.
You're doing life-changing work.
And HUD is proud to be your partner.
Thank you - and thank you again for inviting me to meet with you this afternoon.
Last Modified: January 14, 2005
Content Archived: January 20, 2009