National Association of Realtors
Remarks as prepared for delivery by
"National Summit on Housing Opportunities"
Secretary Mel Martinez
Thursday, September 25, 2003
you to the National Association of Realtors for inviting me to join
you at today's National Summit on Housing Opportunities. And thank
you for your generous introduction, Cathy. Under Cathy's leadership,
the Realtors are a driving force in helping millions of families
realize the American Dream of homeownership. HUD's partnership with
NAR is having a powerful impact on this nation, and I want you to
know that I appreciate our work together.
am honored to be here with so many respected leaders in the housing
field. If we are to successfully meet the challenge ahead of us
and remove the barriers to affordable housing in America, your participation
is good to see Senator Allard here this morning. The Senator is
a strong ally as Chairman of the Banking Committee's Housing and
Transportation Subcommittee. The Senator introduced the President's
American Dream Downpayment Initiative and is very effectively guiding
it through the Senate. I want to thank him for that.
Bob Ney has brought exceptional leadership to the House Financial
Services Subcommittee on Housing. I appreciate his successful efforts
to pass the American Dream legislation in his subcommittee. Thank
you for being here, Congressman.
Carper and Representative Frank, welcome. Both of you are strong
advocates for affordable housing, and I am glad to see you here.
am also very pleased that John Weicher, FHA Commissioner and my
Assistant Secretary for Housing, has joined us to share his extensive
of today's roundtable guests are working closely with HUD to create
affordable housing. NAR is a charter member of the Blueprint for
the American Dream Partnership, which HUD created last year after
President Bush challenged the housing industry to create 5.5 million
new minority homeowners this decade. NAR members are working closely
with us to meet the President's goal, and I welcome your efforts
- along with the efforts of the many others here who are on the
front lines in providing affordable homes for America's families.
can report that we are making progress.
the year since the creation of the Blueprint Partnership, the number
of minority homeowners increased by 809,000, which is nearly as
much as the two previous years combined. This puts us well on our
way to meeting the President's goal of significantly increasing
addition to our work with the Blueprint Partnership, the Administration
has proposed a number of new and expanded programs that will make
affordable housing accessible to lower-income Americans. With the
fiscal year coming to a close and many of these proposals rapidly
moving through Congress, I want to update you on the latest news.
months of hard work by the Administration, our supporters in Congress,
and those of you who have been actively championing it on the Hill,
the House of Representatives is now poised to take up and pass the
President's American Dream Downpayment legislation.
bill would authorize $400 million over two years to help families
overcome the greatest barrier to homeownership: the high cost of
closing on a home. In the Senate, appropriators have provided one
year of funding at $50 million, which marks the first time the Senate
has funded the American Dream Downpayment legislation. The Senate
Banking Committee is moving toward action on the bill as well.
proposal has broad, bipartisan support in Congress, with more than
100 cosponsors. As the legislative process moves forward, we will
continue to press for a level of funding that offers down payment
assistance to the greatest possible number of families.
education for minorities is another priority, and we have increased
the budget for homeownership counseling services. The President
requested $45 million for HUD's housing education program; the full
House agreed to $40 million, and the Senate Appropriations Committee
encourage Congress to fund the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity
Program at $65 million, as we have proposed. This would triple SHOP
funds and spur the construction of more than 5,000 new homes.
has yet to match our request, but if Members were to spend some
time talking with Millard and hear his enthusiasm for SHOP, I think
we could quickly get them on board. I know how important the SHOP
program is to Habitat for Humanity and other community organizations
that are working to turn low-income Americans into homeowners.
the House and Senate have funded the very successful HOME Investment
Partnerships program at just under $2 billion next year. The Administration
requested a record level of funding for HOME in our fiscal year
2004 budget; the funding provided by Congress is only slightly below
we are making good progress in moving these important initiatives
toward passage. I appreciate the support of Congress and the energy
that so many of you have brought to our efforts. But obviously,
more needs to be done.
spite of overwhelming need, very few single-family homes are being
built today in lower-income neighborhoods. The most common reason
is that the cost of developing such housing in an economically distressed
area would exceed the property's market value.
Administration has a solution for that, and this is where I need
you know, Congress has failed to take action during this session
on a key proposal that would have a dramatic impact on the affordable
housing supply. The President's Single-Family Affordable Housing
Tax Credit would encourage the development of homes in neighborhoods
where affordable housing is scarce. Over the next five years, it
would provide developers nearly $2.4 billion in tax credits for
building single-family housing in distressed areas. These credits
would make 200,000 new homes available to low-income families.
tax credit is a Treasury Department initiative that obviously has
a tremendous impact on our work at HUD. Unfortunately, this key
element in the President's affordable housing agenda appears to
be going nowhere this year.
the course of the next year, I intend to fight hard for its enactment.
I am asking you to fight with me.
want you to join me in pressing Congress to enact the tax credit
into law. We have heard the calls from affordable housing advocates
for tax incentives that will encourage more production in our communities.
We have listened, and the Administration has delivered. And now
I am asking for your help in return.
pass the Single Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit next year!
Administration believes that the federal government can play a role
in boosting the supply of affordable housing by helping to bridge
the gap between the cost of development and the value of single-family
homes. The HOME program, for example, is one of HUD's most effective
tools for helping communities meet housing-affordability needs.
due to a maze of exclusionary, discriminatory, and unnecessary state
and local regulations on developers and builders, many markets can
no longer meet the demand for affordable housing. And many Americans
are being priced out of a home.
these regulatory barriers is key to meeting the housing needs of
the nation's families. Once the barriers have been dismantled, experts
say that development costs will drop by as much as 35 percent -
which means that millions of Americans will be able to buy or rent
housing that they cannot afford today.
is addressing the regulatory problem on two fronts.
May of this year, we launched a Department-wide effort called America's
Affordable Communities Initiative. Our plan is to work in partnership
with state and local governments to help them identify and reduce
barriers that prevent the construction of affordable housing or
drive up its costs.
second initiative is the Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse, which
we created in June of 2002. This web-based forum offers builders
and developers nationwide the ability to share ideas and solutions
for overcoming state and local regulatory barriers.
this kind of information will make it possible to put the lessons
learned in one part of the country to work in another so that we
can begin tearing these regulatory barriers down.
want to talk about two issues that I know the industry has been
following very closely: the Administration's proposal for reforming
regulatory oversight of the housing government-sponsored enterprises,
and RESPA reform.
weeks ago, in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee,
Treasury Secretary Snow and I had the opportunity to outline the
principles the Administration supports regarding regulation of the
GSEs. We are in full agreement; Congress and the Administration
have an opportunity and an obligation to strengthen the regulatory
structure of the GSEs. A strong regulator is in everyone's best
interests - the Administration, Congress, Wall Street, investors
worldwide, and most importantly, the American taxpayer.
is important to emphasize that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are an
integral part of making the U.S. housing finance system the envy
of the world. They help bring the world capital markets to America's
front doors. Their efforts lift families all across this nation
into homes of their own. As charter members of the Blueprint for
the American Dream Partnership, Fannie and Freddie are working very
closely with the Administration to help boost minority homeownership,
investing hundreds of billions of dollars apiece. I am grateful
for their active and willing involvement.
Administration has a dual goal. We must ensure that, through the
GSEs, financing is available for low- and moderate-income families.
And we must ensure that the GSEs are subject to rigorous oversight,
so that they are serving their valuable public purpose.
Administration supports strengthening the powers of the GSEs' regulator.
We support consolidating safety and soundness in a single regulator,
instead of splitting them between two offices, as they are today.
And we consider it appropriate to transfer authority over new program
approval from HUD to a new, strengthened regulator, with an important
consultancy role for HUD.
the same time, the Administration proposal leaves the housing goals
at HUD, which is where they belong. Providing affordable housing
is a core element of the GSEs' charter, and only HUD has the expertise
to develop and enforce the housing goals.
agree that HUD's authority should be expanded by creating a new
GSE Housing Office within HUD. This new office would be independently
funded by the GSEs and responsible for establishing, maintaining,
and enforcing the housing goals. The Administration wants HUD's
oversight strengthened in additional ways to ensure that creating
homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families
remains a top priority at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - as mandated
in their public charter.
to RESPA, as all of you know, HUD is in the process of revising
our regulations. I want to applaud Cathy Whatley, her leadership
team, and the NAR staff for their work on this, and for the thoughtful,
helpful, and insightful comments that NAR and all our stakeholders
have provided. We have listened carefully to what you have said
about our plans, and our rule has evolved as a result of your comments.
We are committed to issuing a new rule fully mindful of the impacts
on small businesses.
cannot say yet what form the new rule will take, or give you an
exact timetable on when it will be published, but I can tell you
that the mortgage finance process will be improved as a result.
My goal from day one has been to establish better and timelier disclosure
for consumers, so they have the opportunity to shop for the best
loan, to simplify the mortgage origination process and eliminate
the confusion, and ultimately, to lower settlement costs for homebuyers.
the past three years of economic uncertainty, Americans continued
to buy and refinance homes - in record numbers. The housing market
has been a source of economic strength and stability, and every
American has benefited as a result. You can be very proud of the
fact that your work and your contributions are having such a tremendous
share a common mission in wanting to extend this prosperity to every
neighborhood in every corner of the nation. The affordability problem
is a challenge that we face together, and solving it will demand
the combined talents and resources of federal, state, and local
governments, the housing industry, the business sector, and nonprofits.
I know that we can do more through our partnership, and I look forward
to working with you to turn the affordable housing challenge of
today into one of the great success stories of this generation.
Content Archived: March 16, 2010