Homeownership Gains Will Fuel Economy

President Bush this fall convened a homeownership summit in Washington, D.C., to promote homeownership opportunities for minorities. The following is an excerpt of his remarks.

More and more people own their homes in America today. Two-thirds of all Americans own their homes, yet we have a problem here in America because fewer than half of Hispanics and half of African-Americans own their home. That's a homeownership gap.

I set an ambitious goal. It's one that I believe we can achieve. It's a clear goal, that by the end of this decade we'll increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families.

Homeownership is also an important part of our economic vitality. If - when we meet this project, this goal, according to our secretary of Housing and Urban Development, we will have added an additional $256 billion to the economy by encouraging 5.5 million new homeowners in America. The activity - the economic activity stimulated with the additional purchasers, the additional buyers, the additional demand will be upwards of $256 billion. And that's important because it will help people find work.

Homeownership education is critical. And so today, I'm pleased to announce that we're going to distribute $35 million in 2003 to more than 100 national, state and local organizations that promote homeownership through buyer education.

And, of course, one of the larger obstacles to minority homeownership is financing, is the ability to have their dream financed. Right now, we have a program that all of you are familiar with, maybe our fellow Americans are, and that's what they call a Section 8 housing program, that provides billions of dollars in vouchers to help low-income Americans with their rent. It encourages leasing. We think it's important that we use those vouchers, that federal money to help low-income Americans go from being somebody who leases to somebody who owns, that we use the Section 8 program to not only help with downpayments, but to help with continuing monthly mortgage payments after they're into their new home. It is a way to help us meet this dream of 5.5 million additional families owning their home.

I'm also going to encourage the lending industry to develop a mortgage market so that these vouchers can regularly be used as a source of payment to provide more capital to lenders, who can then help more families move from rental housing into houses of their own.

Last June, I issued a challenge to everyone involved in the housing industry to help increase the number of minority families to be homeowners. And what I'm talking about, I'm talking about your bankers and your brokers and developers, as well as members of faith-based community and community programs. And the response to the homeowners challenge has been very strong and very gratifying. Twenty-two public and private partners have signed up to help meet our national goal. Partners in the mortgage finance industry are encouraging homeownership by purchasing more loans made by banks to African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities.

Representatives of the real estate and homebuilding industries, through their nationwide networks or affiliates, are committed to broadening homeownership. They made the commitment to help meet the national goal we set.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have committed to provide more money for lenders. They've committed to help meet the shortage of capital available for minority homebuyers.

There's all kinds of ways that we can work together to meet the goal. Corporate America has a responsibility to work to make America a compassionate place. Corporate America has responded. As an example - only one of many examples - the good folks at Sears Roebuck have responded by making a five-year, $100 million commitment to making homeownership and home maintenance possible for millions of Americans.

And the faith-based community is doing some fantastic work when it comes to encouraging homeownership, whether it be financial counseling, or job training or other outreach services, to help people understand what it takes to buy a home.

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