National Association of Real Estate Brokers Annual Conference

Prepared Remarks for Secretary Alphonso Jackson

February 23, 2007

Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to share this time with you.

And, Clifford (Turner), congratulations on being voted one of the 25 "most influential thought leaders" in real estate. (Realtor Magazine, December 1, 2006).

[Photo: Secretary Alphonso Jackson]

President Turner, I am pleased you chose Las Vegas for this meeting. Las Vegas makes you take notice. It is one of the nation's most dynamic housing markets.

At times, it has been red-hot!

Now, a little cooler and in transition, the major problem seems to be lack of space. So the housing boom is spilling over into North Las Vegas, Henderson, and other points in Las Vegas Valley.

One reason for home ownership is the expanding economy: the number of jobs in Las Vegas grew at over 5 percent last year, which was the second highest growth rate in the country.

Another reason for the vibrant housing market is the realization that ownership equals empowerment.

Here, as elsewhere, home ownership is a safe bet, a hedge against risk, a secure gamble on the future.

In a town where lady luck graces the fortunate few and proves elusive to the rest of us, homeownership is a winning hand every time.

Many of these first time homeowners are Black Americans or Hispanic Americans. These citizens are discovering the pride, the security, and the equity of homeownership.

They are helping to secure a continued, prosperous future for the entire Las Vegas community.

So, we meet in a housing market that symbolizes your work. This is very appropriate because this is an anniversary year: the 60th anniversary.

Well-done! This is a memorable landmark, an achievement that could only be the stuff of dreams in 1947. In that post-war era, Black ownership of housing was still a rarity.

Few would have believed your organization could last and thrive through service to Black Americans and other underserved communities.

Success would have been judged as "long odds," possibly nothing short of miraculous.

Yet, 60 years later, you are one important reason that more than 51 percent of minority Americans own their own homes. This record level of minority homeownership would have seemed impossible 60 years ago.

Now, with President Bush's challenge to create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by the end of the decade, the past is merely prelude.

NAREB has been a strong and successful advocate for fair housing.

You have been a civil rights advocate for one of the most important rights of all - equal opportunities in home ownership.

Congratulations on this achievement.

We meet on a calendar day of some importance: February 26th.

Each year, this day - this day -- is one of celebration and remembrance for Black Americans. It is the birthday of W.E.B DuBois -- one of our foremost intellectuals, a beacon of light, a man of hope and energy, a courageous and daring writer. For on this day, 139 years ago, God gave us a one of the first civil rights leaders and a tireless advocate for justice. He was born at the end of the Civil War, in Massachusetts, in a town with fewer than 50 Black Americans. He made empowerment for all Black Americans the task of his great life.

You will remember he said that the problem of the 20th Century was "the color line."

Well, you helped millions of Americans cross that line.

Efforts like "Rebuild America" have helped to erase it in hundreds of communities.

You blurred racial and ethnic division, removing signs that said "No Negroes Allowed" or "Whites Only."

You took down every sign of hatred or exclusion, and put out the welcome mat.

You helped end the economic discrimination that made housing unaffordable for minority Americans.

You ended zoning laws and community ordinances that attempted to redraw the color line.

And now, a century later, we still have much work to do. That is the awful truth about is a virus that can quickly infect one person, then another.

However, we have made dramatic progress too. For example, DuBois would be pleased at the announcement of our partnership for "Rebuilding America." Today President Turner and I will sign a memorandum of understanding to seal that partnership, much as you did with Secretary Martinez in 2003. This memorandum will affirm that HUD and NAREB pledge to work together to increase minority ownership.

Specifically, we will

  • Help prospective Black American homebuyers work with fair lending institutions that offer mortgages at affordable rates,
  • Provide Black Americans with counseling services that financially prepare them to purchase their first home,
  • Assist Black Americans who already own a home to make their mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure, and
  • Work with NAREB members to help their clients better understand the home buying process.

Our partnership will help millions of Americans to purchase homes. It will operate in concert with the Administration's efforts to provide rapid and inclusive home buying within America's minority communities.

Homeownership has been a priority for this president and my department. We have encouraged ownership in several ways. This agreement parallels efforts outlined in the President's new budget. For example, the HOME Program is a major contribution to the housing market. Earlier this month, the President proposed almost $2 billion for the HOME Program in Fiscal year 2008. This is an increase of more than $50 million over last year's request. As a result, the HOME Investment Partnership is the largest federal block grant program of its kind. This federal program funds activities that build, buy, and rehabilitate housing for low-income families to rent or purchase.

One component of the HOME Program is the American Dream Downpayment Initiative. This effort helps low-income families with closing costs and down payments on a first home. The President started this program in 2003, and since then more than 21,000 families have used it to purchase their own homes. About half of these homeowners were minority citizens.

We also know that education plays a key role in helping families become homeowners. Studies show that a homebuyer who understands the process and available financing options is more likely to buy a home, and be happy with that home. Such a homeowner is less likely to be taken in by predatory lenders.

There are other ways to help make homes affordable to first-time buyers. We strongly encourage Congress to pass legislation that modernizes the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Over the past 72 years, the FHA has helped more than 34 million families become homeowners.

However, reforms must be made for the FHA to adapt to today's marketplace. FHA-insured loans are uncompetitive in many housing markets. Therefore, we should remove the red tape that undermines FHA loan viability. We should increase and simplify borrowing limits to address rising home costs and eliminate the current three percent minimum down payment.

All of this will help minorities and others who have historically been excluded from the housing market find new opportunities and options.

Homeownership is empowerment.

It is freedom.

It represents a step toward financial security.

It is the American Dream.

Our work helps make housing more affordable, inclusive, fair, and equitable. Together we give voice to W.E.B. DuBois's call for more freedom, independence, empowerment, and prosperity in the black community.

On this day, with the signing of this memorandum, we together make that vision of independence a reality.

We become agents of empowerment.

We become freedom's advocates and make God's work our own.

Moreover, for every homeowner who crosses the "color line," we make this country stronger, better, nobler, and more just.

We erase the color line, one homeowner at a time.

DuBois also added, "Progress in human affairs is more often a pull than a push."

You know he is right!

You have pulled your communities and this country forward, pulled them into the future, pulled your communities into an era of fair housing and equal opportunity, pulled them to become more integrated and harmonious, and pulled them to open up their homes and hearts to all Americans.

For six decades, you pulled and pulled to revitalize, to renew, to rebuild, and to reopen our neighborhoods and cities.

You have heard DuBois, especially when he asked you to see, in his words, "the dawn of freedom."

You created a bright daylight of independence and opportunity!

Congratulations again on this 60th anniversary.

Thank you.


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