President Bush Promotes Housing

June 6, 2002

Declares June National Homeownership Month

WASHINGTON - Vernetta Young became a homeowner today thanks to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, Habitat for Humanity and her own hard work. The day after President Bush proclaimed June as National Homeownership Month, Martinez kicked off the month-long celebration by giving Young and her family the keys to "The House the HUD Secretary Built" today during a ceremony in Northeast Washington.

"June is National Homeownership Month and what better way to mark the occasion than to help one family realize the American Dream," said Martinez. "Today we open one door but President Bush and I are committed to opening many more to families who have longed to share in the dream of having a home to call their own."

Young said, "This is wonderful, wonderful! I'm just ecstatic. The first thing I'm going to do in our new house is to kneel down and give thanks to God for the home that we have." The three-bedroom house will now be home to Young, her two daughters Tierra and Jasmine, and her eight-year-old granddaughter, Patience.

In an effort to expand homeownership opportunities to more Americans, President Bush is proposing to triple funding to faith-based and self-help programs like Habitat for Humanity. HUD funding of such "sweat equity" programs would nearly triple from $22 million to $65 million. In addition, President Bush's proposed budget includes several important initiatives to further increase homeownership for all Americans:

  • American Dream Downpayment Fund. This program would provide $200 million to continue to help more Americans reach the dream of homeownership. Administered under HUD's HOME program, this fund will help an estimated 40,000 low-income families a year to become first-time homeowners.
  • Housing Counseling Assistance Program. The Administration is requesting a record $35 million, a $15 million increase, for a separate Housing Counseling Assistance Program for low-income families in the coming year. Once a set-aside within the HOME Program, these competitively awarded grants will provide comprehensive counseling services including pre-purchase, default and renter counseling to potential and current homeowners and tenants.
  • Section 8 Homeownership Program. HUD permits local housing agencies the flexibility to use HUD's rental assistance toward moving low-income families into homeownership. The housing agencies may either provide mortgage assistance in lieu of a rental subsidy or offer families a one-time downpayment grant equaling up to one-year's worth of their rental assistance.
  • Renewing the Dream Tax Credit. To further promote homeownership, the Administration is proposing a $1.7 billion tax credit to support the rehabilitation or new construction of an estimated 100,000 homes for purchase by low-income households over a five-year period.
  • Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME). The budget plan includes $2.1 billion for the HOME program, an increase of $238 million over current year funding. HOME grants to States and local governments fund a wide range of activities that build, buy, and/or rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership. HOME funding also provides direct rental assistance to low-income people.

In addition,HUD this week unveiled a new website especially designed to provide important information and tips about owning a home. Martinez and other HUD officials will be traveling the country during June to recognize how homeownership can transform communities from the ground up. Martinez will also promote the Bush Administration's plan to expand homeownership opportunities to minority families who continue to lag behind national homeownership levels.

Martinez also pointed to a just-released study by the Homeownership Alliance that confirms the strength of the housing market is a major force fueling the nation's economy. The report concludes that even at the State and local level, the strength of housing has helped to mitigate the recent economic slowdown and even stimulated economic recovery.

The report underscores the Bush Administration's efforts to expand homeownership opportunities beyond current levels. Last year, the national homeownership rate rose to an all-time high of over 68 percent. However, homeownership among minorities, while also rising to historic levels, continues to lag far behind the national average.

Since June of 1997, HUD marked a week-long national homeownership observance. This year, however, the Bush Administration is using the entire month of June to underscore the importance of homeownership and to focus national attention on initiatives to expand the American Dream to even more Americans.

Background on "The House the HUD Secretary Built"

The Young family's former living situation was less than ideal to meet the special needs of 13-year-old Tierra has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. The small one-bedroom apartment included a narrow kitchenette that prevented access for Tierra and forced Vernetta to carry her daughter. Vernetta and her daughters slept in the same room on two beds pushed together.

The newly restored home features wide doors and ramps to accommodate Tierra's wheelchair as well as a new furnace and central air conditioning. Contractors removed asbestos shingles and lead paint hazards from the home before volunteers took over the rehabilitation project. The home's attic is now a second-floor living area that will become ten-year-old Jasmine's new bedroom.

Habitat for Humanity is celebrating 26 years of building homes for families in need. In recognition of Habitat's substantial contribution to providing affordable housing opportunities, Martinez authorized the sale of the Young's new home to Habitat for $1. The nonprofit, nondenominational Christian housing organization has built more than 120,000 houses in more than 83 countries, including some 30,000 houses across the United States.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities, creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans, supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development as well as enforces the nation's fair housing laws.More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet.

Read the Presidential Proclamation of National Homeownership Month 2002.

Source: Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

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