National Association of Homebuilders
Board of Directors Meeting

Remarks as prepared for delivery by Secretary Alphonso Jackson

February 08, 2007

Thank you, David Pressly, for the kind introduction.

Together, David and I have half a century of experience putting people in homes. Does that make you feel as old as it does me, David? Thank you for being a tremendous advocate for the association. It has been a pleasure to work with you over the past year, as well as your predecessor, Dave Wilson.

[Photo: Secretary Jackson]

I look forward to working with President-Elect Brian Catalde and the NAHB Senior Officers - Joe Robson and Sandy Dunn - in the months to come.

I would like to thank the National Association of Homebuilders for having me here today. I enjoy speaking to homebuilders because I believe in the work that you do. You build stronger communities, you fuel the economy, but the part I like most, is that your work has a direct positive impact on peoples' lives.

You lift families into the middle-class and beyond by creating what, for most of them, is their greatest source of wealth: their home. One individual and one family at a time, you build a better America.

I have been fortunate to interact with this group over the years, and one thing I have learned is this: Homebuilders are kind, compassionate people. And you don't need to watch a home make-over show to tell you that.

You can see their commitment and their dedication to helping people every day in cities all around our nation. You can see it in the smiling faces of the excited family, newly-wed couple, or the recent graduate, who just received the keys to a home of their very own.

Not long ago, I met a young woman in Arizona who was a victim of domestic violence and had to be rescued by a police SWAT team. She and her children were about to start a new life, but were penniless and homeless. The only thing she had was her faith and a dream that someday she would own a home.

Thanks in part to HUD and a local non-profit partner, this young woman is now among the record number of families who share in the American Dream. Because homebuilders like you construct homes - affordable homes - you are helping people across our nation to live a better life.

If you walk away from my speech today with only one thing, let it be this: Your work is tremendous. Your work is appreciated. And you have my full support and that of the President.

The Bush Administration remains committed to promoting an "Ownership Society." And an important part of that goal is helping more people become homeowners.

Together with the homebuilders, we are seeing great progress in homeownership. Today, more Americans have a home of their own than at any time in our nation's history. Nearly 70 percent of all American families own their own home, and minority homeownership exceeds 51 percent, also an historic high.

In June 2002, the President set forth a challenge to the nation to create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by 2010. We are more than halfway toward that goal. In the four years since that challenge was issued, nearly 3.5 million minority families have already joined the ranks of homeowners. We are making great progress.

Over the past four years, the housing market had a record setting run and was an important source of economic growth. Although the housing boom that we saw in 2004 and 2005 has cooled, the market remains strong compared to historic levels.

As forecasted by private and Administration economic experts, the housing market is undergoing a correction and will return to a sustainable level of activity.

While there have been seasonal changes, the housing market fundamentals are still strong: interest rates are low; there is growth in the number of jobs; and incomes are growing.

As reported in January, December housing starts increased for the second consecutive month, and building permits rose for the first time since January 2006, potentially signaling an end to the sharp decline in residential construction over the past year.

Mortgage rates have fallen 57 basis points since July 2006, and are now well below the average of the 1990's.

Moreover, 2006 still ranked among the six best years for housing starts, building permits, new home sales, and existing home sales.

These are all very promising signs of the good work you have done and of the good things to come. And the President and HUD want to support your efforts.

This week, the President's proposed fiscal year 2008 budget for HUD was announced. This $35.2 billion dollar budget reaffirms the President's commitment to increase homeownership, particularly among minorities and low-income families.

The 2008 budget will increase funds for critical homeownership programs, including: almost $2 billion dollars in funding for the HOME Investment Partnership Program for families to purchase and rehabilitate their homes or apartments, and $50 million for housing counseling to help families prepare financially for homeownership, get their credit in order, and learn how to avoid predatory lending and default.

We will also continue to fund good programs like the Self-Help Homeownership Program, which provides experienced non-profit organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, with funding to provide self-help housing.

In addition to putting these great programs to work to expand homeownership, we will continue to work hard to improve some of our more traditional tools.

Since its inception in the 1930's, the Federal Housing Administration has helped more than 34 million Americans to buy a home. But the market has changed, and FHA needs to change with it.

Too many individuals and families have been steered into high-cost and high-risk loans, particularly minorities, first-time homebuyers, and families with less-than-perfect credit.

Modernizing the FHA would give it the tools it needs to offer hard-working credit-worthy borrowers the opportunity to obtain financing at a cost they can afford. American homebuyers need FHA. Legislation to modernize it is critical. We expect that the new Congress will re-introduce this legislation this year.

In closing, I would like to say that we at HUD were very saddened by the devastation caused by the severe storms and tornadoes that affected areas just north of here last week. Our hearts and prayers go out to those families who have lost their loved ones, and to those who lost their churches, their place of business, and their homes.

HUD stands ready to work with the community in any way we can to help these families to rebuild their homes and their lives, just as we have in the entire Gulf Coast hit by hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita.

Again, I would like to say thank you all for the invitation to speak. I look forward to our continued partnership and shared efforts to ensure that all Americans can share in the dream of homeownership.

Thank you.

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