National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary Mel Martinez*
Wednesday, April 2, 2003
Thank you Oscar for that gracious introduction and for your remarks.
And congratulations Gary on your chairmanship - we are looking forward
to working in close partnership with you.
It is a pleasure to be here this evening as you welcome your new
Board Members. Your association has worked hard to serve the Hispanic
real estate community and to further the interests of all Hispanics
I also want to thank outgoing chairman Ernest Reyes and president
Ruben Garcia for all that you have done for our country's housing
industry. We at HUD appreciate the leadership you have brought to
NAHREP and to the real estate community at large.
And I would like to acknowledge the members of Congress and other
distinguished individuals who are here tonight. Thank you for your
It is always a pleasure to speak to NAHREP. Your association has
been a solid partner in this Administration's efforts to increase
minority homeownership, educate homebuyers and expand affordable
housing in America. You have been an important conduit of information
and expertise, and a vital link between our agency and the individual
or family looking for a place to call home. We are grateful for
our partnership with your association.
Just this morning, we kicked off Fair Housing Month at HUD and
NAHREP was there with us to sign a new fair housing agreement, which
I will talk about in greater detail in a few moments.
We also were delighted to have Lynda Johnson Robb join us for this
morning's event. As the daughter of President Lyndon Johnson, Mrs.
Robb provides a direct link to that historic event 35 years ago
this month, when President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into
And today, under the leadership of President Bush, our national
commitment to creating equal housing opportunities for all Americans
is as strong as it was under President Johnson in 1968.
Not only is your industry critical to the well being of our communities
and to the advancement of equality in housing, but you also provide
an important stimulus to our national economy and our economic recovery.
This is especially true during times of war and global uncertainty.
With the liberation of Iraq well underway and the battle against
global terrorism a top priority, America needs to be strong -
strong on the battlefield, strong when it comes to Homeland Security
and strong in our communities.
During the last 13 days, the world has seen the nature of the young
men and women who fight on behalf of our coalition. They are showing
kindness and respect to the Iraqi people and are going to extraordinary
lengths to spare the lives of the innocent.
The world also witnessed firsthand the cruel nature of a dying
regime. In areas still under its control, Sadam's regime rules by
terror. Prisoners of war are being brutalized and executed. Iraqis
who refuse to fight for the regime are being murdered. Even some
in the Iraqi military have pretended to surrender, only to open
fire on the coalition forces that showed them mercy.
And a few of our brave soldiers have paid with the ultimate sacrifice
and our prayers go out to them and their families. One such soldier
was 19-year-old U.S. Army Pfc. Diego Rincon, killed at a coalition
checkpoint last Saturday by a suicide car bomber.
Diego and his family were immigrants from Colombia seeking a better
life here in America - a life free from the terrorism that
plagued their homeland. And after 9/11, young Diego, a naturalized
citizen, decided to join the U.S. military to fight against that
very terrorism that he saw threatening our nation. He wanted to
repay his adoptive country and died a hero doing so.
Pfc. Diego Rincon embodied the American spirit and he will be remembered
in our prayers.
Two other brave soldiers killed in action, were granted U.S. citizenship
posthumously earlier today. Cpl. Jose Garibay, a native of Mexico,
and Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, a native of Guatemala, both dreamed
of becoming U.S. citizens and died fighting for their country.
Having lived under a tyrannical dictatorship, I have a special
appreciation for the cause of freedom. The people of Iraq prefer
freedom to oppression and be assured our cause is just!
The young men and women who serve in the military are giving their
best to this country and to freedom loving people around the world.
We have the responsibility to give them our full support as they
fight for the liberty of an oppressed people, for the security of
the United States, and for a lasting peace.
We also have the responsibility to care for the home front -
making sure that their families are provided for, that there are
jobs are available and that there is decent, affordable housing
in our communities.
The President's efforts are winning the war on the battlefields
of Iraq and Afghanistan, and are leading our economy into recovery.
But we will not rest until we move beyond recovery and into lasting
prosperity - a prosperity based upon jobs, economic vitality,
confidence and national security.
The housing market has played a vital role in helping our economy
emerge from the recession and from the lasting impact of the 9/11
tragedy. And each of you in this room tonight has played an important
role in that national effort.
As you know so well, 2002 was a banner year for the real estate
industry. Despite concerns over terrorism, an unstable stock market,
and continued corporate shake-ups, the real estate market enjoyed
low interest rates, rising values, increased consumer spending,
and solid demand for both resale and new housing stock.
Our Administration has tremendous respect for the real estate industry
and the way in which you empower families to achieve the "American
Dream" of homeownership. And you have made affordability a key issue
for your association, stressing that many of the families you work
with, especially in the Hispanic community, are low- and moderate-income
buyers or renters.
Creating affordable housing options for more Americans remains
a critical component of the President's agenda. As a first step,
we want more families to become homeowners. And we want more of
those families to be minorities.
I think all of us in this room tonight are delighted that homeownership
rates reached record levels last year. That is good news for our
economy, good news for our communities and good news for the industry.
However, despite this encouraging trend in home purchases, we
continue to see a gap between the homeownership rates of minorities
and non-minorities, many of whom are Hispanics.
While a record 50 percent of Hispanic families today own their
own home -- a 42 percent increase over the last 12 years -- Hispanics
still fall 20 percentage points below the U.S. homeownership average
of 68.3 percent. But because the President and I believe so firmly
in the transforming power of homeownership, we are committed to
closing the gap
we are committed to creating an additional
5.5 million minority homeowners by the end of this decade.
As you know, President Bush announced that goal last June when
he rolled out America's Homeownership Challenge, the centerpiece
of our efforts to close the homeownership gap.
And as many of you witnessed firsthand, HUD's response to the
President's challenge was the Blueprint for the American Dream
Partnership - an unprecedented public/private partnership
that harnesses the resources of the federal government with those
of the housing industry. We launched the Blueprint Partnership
last October at the White House Conference on Increasing Minority
Homeownership in Washington, DC. And NAHREP was there from the
I applaud your association for your leadership and the expertise
you have provided us on this initiative.
You have expanded your outreach to minorities through homeownership
education in Spanish and your education campaigns are providing
real estate professionals with the tools they need to better serve
minority consumers. You have committed to training 500 of these
professionals this year and an additional 1,000 per year all the
way to 2010.
Moreover, you and your colleagues have opened the door to a better
understanding of Hispanic culture, realizing correctly that this
is a traditionally underserved, yet specialized market requiring
unique products and services. In addition, you have correctly shown
that the Hispanic real estate market is quickly becoming a driving
force in our economy.
Recent Census figures illustrate that Hispanics have surpassed
African-Americans as our nation's largest minority community, with
an estimated 37 million people. The Hispanic population also grew
at an impressive 58 percent over the last decade, making it the
fastest growing demographic group in the country.
By the year 2010, experts say that total Hispanic spending power
in America will reach more than $900 billion, almost double what
it was just a few years ago. And as your association has pointed
out: During the next 10 years, over two-thirds of all new households
being formed will be minority and immigrant, and 40 percent of all
first-time homebuyers will be Hispanic.
For a good number of Hispanics, buying a home is literally part
of their very own American Dream -- many Hispanic immigrant families,
like that of Pfc. Diego Rincon, come to this great country seeking
economic freedom and opportunity, including the privilege of owning
their own home.
As a result, Government is paying closer attention to the needs
of Hispanics and corporate America is revamping its marketing approach
to our community -- no longer viewing Hispanics as a "niche" market.
And as you have so effectively shown through your own initiatives,
corporations are increasingly finding that it makes good business
sense to customize services and products to better reach and serve
the Hispanic marketplace.
It is clear, however, that obstacles remain
consumers differ in their real estate experience and knowledge,
when compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts.
HUD's Housing Discrimination Study 2000, which we issued
last year, found that Hispanics face discrimination one out of every
four times they try to rent an apartment - the same level of
discrimination they encountered in 1989. We have made no progress
in diminishing rental discrimination against Hispanics - we
must do better.
Together with our partners in the housing, financial services
and other critical industries, HUD is working to break down these
barriers to homeownership and eliminate discriminatory abuses. And
I am happy to report that our efforts are having an impact.
First, we are beefing up our enforcement of fair housing laws.
And as part of this effort, $2 million of the Administration's fair
housing budget for next year will support enforcement and outreach
in six cities with significant or rapidly growing Hispanic populations.
This means doing more timely and efficient investigations of cases
that allege mortgage discrimination.
We are acquiring software that will help us better analyze the
loans of the lenders we investigate so we can bring these cases
Another way we are attacking this problem is through education.
Housing counseling is particularly important for Hispanics, who
often speak English as their second language or who came to this
country as immigrants and may not be familiar with their rights
as homebuyers and renters.
In fact, our FY 2004 budget will expand funds for counseling services
from $40 million in FY 2003 to $45 million. Through these programs,
we will educate potential buyers and renters on the buying and leasing
and on their rights as buyers or tenants. We expect
to provide approximately 550,000 families with home purchase and
homeownership counseling and about 250,000 families with rental
So as you can see, we are dedicating the resources. The funds are
there. Now we need to work with you and others in the housing industry
to ensure you are informed about our programs and you are accessing
Let me also say a few words about a top priority of mine since
joining HUD: reforming the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
I believe that we have developed a well-crafted proposal that
can reduce settlement costs by an average of $700 per closing, which
will allow many Americans currently priced out of the homebuying
market to buy a home. And we predict that the overall annual savings
to consumers could be as much as $8 billion. This kind of savings
will have the great benefit of increasing the number of lower-income
Americans who will now be able to buy a home.
Most importantly, our RESPA reforms will restore clarity, transparency,
and simplicity to the homebuying process and will make it more difficult
for unscrupulous lenders to take advantage of borrowers.
While RESPA reform is an important tool for addressing predatory
lending, it will not end predatory lending on its own. And so we
are attacking the predatory lending problem, while preserving a
source of credit for those with less-than-perfect credit histories.
Our 04 budget also strengthens HUD's commitment to SHOP, the Self-Help
Homeownership Opportunity Program. This is a key initiative that
turns low-income Americans into homeowners by partnering the federal
government with faith-based and other community organizations. The
program is funded at $65 million, which will support the construction
of 5,200 homes.
And we are proposing to fund the American Dream Downpayment Initiative
at $200 million. The Initiative will help approximately 40,000 low-income
families with the down payment on their first home. We also reach
out to low-income families hoping to make the move into homeownership
by allowing them to put up to a year's worth of their Housing Choice
Voucher assistance toward a home down payment.
To promote the production of affordable single-family homes in
areas where such housing is scarce, the Administration is proposing
a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the cost of constructing a new
home or rehabilitating an existing home.
One of our primary responsibilities at HUD is to educate individuals
about their rights under the Fair Housing Act and to ensure that
the law is enforced.
That is why President Bush's budget requests to Congress asks for
the largest ever fair housing budget: $50 million to assist our
partners in targeting discrimination and educating people about
their fair housing rights. This will ensure that we have the tools
we need to increase public awareness of housing rights
the tools necessary to enforce the Fair Housing Act.
And I am pleased to announce that today, HUD, NAHREP and other
leaders in the real estate industry expanded our partnership through
the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding aimed at reducing
the disparity in homeownership rates among different racial and
ethnic groups in America.
The agreement by HUD and the national associations representing
realtors, real estate brokers, Hispanic real estate professionals,
and Asian American real estate professionals outlines specific commitments
by our partners to eliminating the barriers of discrimination that
block families from homeownership. Most of these efforts are educational
in nature, targeted either to the real estate industry or to minority
homebuyers. All of these commitments are rooted in the recognition
that we can - and must - do better.
Before I close, let me say that I am proud of the work you are
doing out there in your communities. You are making the American
Dream a reality for millions of Americans and you are helping bridge
the gap between our majority and minority communities. Your work
empowers families and builds stable, vibrant communities.
I am also proud of the men and women at HUD and their dedication
to improving housing conditions in this country. They are passionate
about their work and are making America a better place to live.
And finally, as you leave here tonight, please keep our brave service
men and women in your thoughts and prayers. And know that their
sacrifice is deep
their cause is just.
Thank you and good night.
*This is not a transcript of the Secretary's speech.
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