Home | En Español | Contact Us | A to Z 

National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary Mel Martinez*

Washington, D.C.
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 across America.

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 support.

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 law.

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 start.

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…that Hispanic 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 more quickly.

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 processes… 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 counseling.

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 the monies.

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… and 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.

Content Archived: March 16, 2010

FOIA Privacy Web Policies and Important Links [logo: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity]
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
Telephone: (202) 708-1112 TTY: (202) 708-1455