Thank you. It's great to be here on Nativity Lane today.
I would like to thank the Honorable Mayor Bill Haslam of the City of Knoxville and his Chief of Staff Mike Arms. You run a fine city, Mayor. State Senator Tim Burchett, thank you.
Liz Blake of Habitat for Humanity International, and Kelle Shultz, Executive Director of Habitat here in Knoxville, thank you. HUD and Habitat have always been strong partners. We give them dollars and they make miracles. Thank you both for being here.
I would like to thank a very special guest: JoAnna White, Knoxville Habitat for Humanity homeowner. You know June is Homeownership Month. And at HUD we love to celebrate homeowners! So JoAnna, this is your month! And it's the month for all those people out there who are living out their American Dream. Congratulations. I'm going to tell you more about JoAnna in a bit.
But first, I want to tell you about homeownership. This year's homeownership month comes at a time unlike any other. The sub-prime problem looms over our heads. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes. Before this year is up, the losses will continue to grow. But the situation is not hopeless. HUD believes that one home lost is one too many. And we have answers.
FHA is one solution. We are asking Congress to help us modernize the FHA. And the time is now! If Congress passes reform, we could help hundreds of thousands of families, and we could do so without cost or risk to taxpayers. This month, we celebrated our 34 millionth FHA customer. And we are helping families stay in their homes.
A second thing HUD is doing is increasing funds for housing counseling. The Administration has increased the budget for counseling over 200 percent, with the President requesting another increase - to $50 million - in the coming fiscal year. Housing counseling teaches homeowners how to determine if they can afford a home, and how to read the fine print so they won't be in danger of losing their home and their equity. Housing counseling is a way that we are helping to promote and protect homeownership, which is this month's theme. To protect and to preserve.
Today we are here to promote in October Woods. Habitat has done great work here. Their efforts have been priceless to the families of Tennessee.
The Knoxville Habitat builds 27 houses per year. Earlier this year, they blitzed seven houses in one week here in the October Woods subdivision! They are on a mission to get as many people into homes as they can. And they are doing tremendous work.
HUD was pleased to play a part in their efforts. Nearly $697,000 in Self Help Homeownership Opportunity Program funds were provided for infrastructure and land to create this neighborhood. It was money well spent.
When completed in December 2007, there will be 41 homes. That's 41 happy families, a whole lot of smiling children, and many proud adults.
Over the past decade, HUD has contributed more than $127 million in funds to build Habitat homes across the nation. Of that amount, more than $6.4 million has been awarded here in the state of Tennessee among 26 Habitat for Humanity groups. This funding has made 600 Habitat for Humanity homes available for families in the state, including people like JoAnna White and her daughter.
I hadn't forgotten you, JoAnna! Joanna was in the Habitat program for two years before the completion of her home. She earned more than 500 sweat equity hours by attending a weekly classes, including a budget class. Now JoAnna is sharper about money management than the razors she helps manufacture!
Thanks to Habitat, JoAnna and her daughter have a safe, wonderful new place. They have the stability and the security that a home provides. And JoAnna has a brand new place where she can do the things she loves most � her sewing and crafts projects.
Habitat helps people like JoAnna to achieve their dreams everyday. They are one of those rare groups that bless the people who build homes just as much as the people who live in them. And I am happy to be here to see their good work in Knoxville firsthand.
Thank you for inviting me. And thank you all for being here!