Posted 7:01 p.m. Oct. 15
by Patrick W. Higgins
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–President George W. Bush and other members of his administration pledged to increase the number of minority homeowners by 5.5 million people within the next decade at a day-long conference in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.
“America is a great place,” Bush said, “and part of it is making sure that the dream, the American dream, is achievable for everyone.”
The White House Conference on Minority Homeownership focused on the existing gap between American homeowners, with 74.2 percent of white citizens owning a home compared to 47.1 percent and 47.2 percent of blacks and Hispanics respectively as noted in a recent report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We want more Americans to experience the pride, comfort and security of home ownership,” said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez.
Martinez, after participating in several panel discussions about the problem of minority home ownership and how to correct it earlier in the morning, gave a brief introduction before the president’s 30 minute address.
Bush’s speech focused on a four point plan to achieve his administrations goal of 5.5 million additional minority homeowners before 2010, including federally funded programs aimed at educating minority citizens about the purchasing process, the construction of more affordable homes and a redirection of federal money from current rent assistance programs to down payment and financing funds for minorities.
“This plan requires good policy from Washington and a commitment from the real estate community,” Bush said.
In a joint effort between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bush announced that $35 million will be distributed to organizations that provide educational advice about the home owning process including credit counseling and mortgage financing.
Bush referred to home ownership education as “critical”, saying, “We need to set priorities.”
Another area of concern that Bush mentioned was abandoned inner-city areas where real estate is abundant but crime is common and education systems are deficient. The president proposed that faith-based organizations take a more aggressive step in rebuilding the inner-cities, saying, “If we have qualified homeowners with no homes to buy this program isn’t going anywhere.”
“These are some of the barriers that potential home owners face,” Bush said, “and this is what we plan to do about it.” Bush warned however, that “the government can’t do everything.”
If the proposed goal was met on schedule, Bush, Martinez and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman all said that it would result in an additional $256 billion in benefits to the U.S. economy. Administration officials continued to highlight the economic benefits of fulfilling the goal, saying that thousands of jobs would also be created.
“This plan is not only good for the soul of the country, but for the pocketbook as well,” Bush said.
All of the speakers echoed Martinez’s original message that this plan would not only increase the “economic vitality” of the country as Bush called it, but would also give minorities a sense of confidence and pride.
“It brings pride to people in an asset-based culture,” Bush said.
To demonstrate the early effects of the HUD initiative, Martinez presented four families that were able to purchase their own home because of federal funding and guidance. One family, recent immigrants from Peru, told the audience of approximately 200 people that HUD was like their “guardian angel.”
“Through the program, these people [the families present] were able to realize their own dream of home ownership,” Martinez said.
The conference, held on the campus of The George Washington University, drew a small crowd of protestors-both in support of and against Bush and his policies.