"The House the Secretary Built" Dedication

Remarks prepared for delivery by
Secretary Mel Martinez
Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Good morning, and welcome.

I want to thank the Homeownership Alliance for being with us. We have all seen the remarkable strength of the housing market over the past year. The Alliance study confirms what many of us have been saying: that housing was the glue that held the nation's economy together during the recent slowdown. That fact alone offers a compelling argument in support of homeownership.

The study highlights just one of the many reasons this Administration is committed to lifting more families into homeownership, and why we have set aside the month of June as National Homeownership Month: because homeownership is something to celebrate. Beyond its importance to the economy, President Bush and I believe in the power of homeownership to transform individual lives and entire communities.

As the President said himself in making his National Homeownership Month proclamation: "Where homeownership flourishes, neighborhoods are more stable, residents are more civic-minded, schools are better, and crime rates decline."

We are marking this month with events across the country, including Habitat ceremonies like this one, fairs, ribbon-cuttings, groundbreakings, and proclamations. This is our opportunity to spread the word about homeownership - especially to minority families, who own far fewer homes of their own than non-minority families do.

Helping more Americans become homeowners is central to our mission at HUD, but we cannot do it alone. We depend on the support of partners like Habitat for Humanity.

I was honored when Tom Jones and the folks at Habitat told me they were going to renovate this home and call it "the House the HUD Secretary Built." Today, seven months after we kicked off the project, I am delighted with the result. After all the work that has gone into it, I suggest that we rename it "the House the HUD Secretary and a Caring Community Built," because this has truly been a collective labor of love.

This Administration strongly supports Habitat's work in helping low-income families become homeowners. HUD and Habitat have been partners since 1996. We take a great deal of pride in Habitat's success. In fact, the President plans to triple the federal government's investment in Habitat's work next year - up to $65 million.

Other important initiatives include the $200 million American Dream Downpayment Fund, which will help 40,000 families every year overcome the hurdle of high down payments. I am very pleased that Senator Wayne Allard is introducing legislation today in the Senate to create the fund. Congressman Mike Rogers has introduced a companion bill in the House.

We are also dedicating $35 million to help future homeowners become better-educated consumers through housing counseling.

As HUD Secretary, I spend every day dealing with housing issues. But I never have more enthusiasm for the subject than when I am actually doing something about it - by pounding nails at a Habitat site and working side by side with a future homeowner.

This is your day, Vernetta, and you should be very proud of what you have accomplished. I have enjoyed getting to know Vernetta and her wonderful family while working together on this house. She has told me some of the dreams she has for her daughters and their new home. Vernetta, I am very pleased that HUD could play a part in making at least one of your dreams - the American Dream of owning a home of your own - come true.


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