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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Weicher
John Weicher
Assistant Secretary for Housing
March 26, 2004

John C. Weicher
Hello. It is good to be here. Glad to have the opportunity to discuss what the President is doing to help American families buy their own homes. Let's take your questions.

Josh, from New York writes:
There is considerable speculation and concern that home values have entered a "bubble" phase in many parts of the country, much as equities did in the late 1990s. Compounding this potential problem may be the amount of "cash-out" refinancings and home equity balances executed by Americans during this period of historically low interest rates. What is your view of whether or not we are in or near a bubble in home prices, and what is to become of those who could find themselves over-extended if (or more likely, when) interest rates begin to rise, as they inevitably must, or home values stage a significant decline?

John C. Weicher

Most analysts don't think that there is a house price bubble. And several studies show that people who do a cash out refinancing use the money for major purchases such as a college education, or home improvement. So I don't think there is a house price bubble on any national basis.

Thanks for your question.

Davida, from Southaven, MS writes:
What concrete steps must minorities take in order to benefit from these new initiatives?

Thank You

John C. Weicher

Money to help families with a down payment will be distributed to state and local governments. Watch your newspaper and your TV to find out when to apply. Or look at


doris, from new york city writes:
Dear Mr. weicher; i have read several reports that president has made the initiative to make housing more affordalbe to minorities i just recently

read that over all that minorities have not really achieved the american

dream of home ownership. i have along with my husband have tryed to summit applications to organizations in which they were supposed to help low income and minorites aquire their first home, what i don't understand is

how much money shouls you be making in order to quilify for these programs especially when you have a large family. my husband has excelent credit and is very timly with his payments but we don't know who would help us to help our children live in adequate housing it seems that the housing market caters to those extremly in poverty or extremly welthy and the middle near poor

can't get a break.your advise would be most appreciative thank you sir. Mrs Sehen

John C. Weicher
Hello Doris

We'll be providing money to New York state and New York city to help families who can't afford the down payment on a home. Watch for the announcements on tv or in the paper and log on to

You can also call (800) 569-4287 and find a housing counseling agency near you.

We provide money to the counseling agencies especially to help people like you.

Thanks for the question.

Maury, from Scranton writes:
I'm a college student at Drexel University. I hope to own a home one day -- is there anything that I should be doing now, or could be doing now to make this possible?

John C. Weicher
Hello Maury

First, finish your education. Then when you get a job put some money aside every paycheck to build money for the down payment. If you can put three percent on a down payment and you have good credit, FHA can ensure your mortgage. And we have a new proposal to ensure your mortgage even if you can't put anything down.

Rita, from Palm Beach writes:
Democrats are accusing that the gap in minority housing has not been reduced in 2003. Is this true and how do you respond to this attack?

John C. Weicher
For the first time ever, over half of our minority families own their own home. 50.6 percent.

We think this is a very good record and we are planning to improve on it.

In fact, The overall U.S. homeownership rate was at a record high of 68.6% in the fourth quarter - its highest level ever.

The President, in June 2002, announced the goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families before the end of the decade. Only 18 months later, the Census estimates an increase of 1.53 million minority homeowners. In the fourth quarter of 2003 - for the first time ever - the majority of minority households are now homeowners.

And again, the minority homeownership rate set a new quarterly record of 50.6%, up 1.3 percentage points from the third quarter.

In December, President Bush signed the American Dream Down payment Act in December which will help 40,000 families a year with their down payment and closing costs.

Money will become available this spring.

The President is in New Mexico today talking about this. Log on to the site later and you can read his comments. We're doing a great job and we want to help more and more families.

Tim, from Ogdensburg. NY writes:
What do you plan on doing to make it easier for people of all classes to own a house?

John C. Weicher
Hello Tim

FHA is proposing to insure mortgages for families who can't make a down payment or pay the closing costs if you have a good job and can make the mortgage payments.

We've asked Congress to give us this authority. And the low interest rates that we now enjoy are helping more and more families become home owners.

Ed, from Flemington, NJ writes:
I am an Army veteran and I have all the paper work done thru the VA for home loan. But here in NJ there aren't that many places that will work with a VA Home Loan. It just seems a shame that vet's like me and countless others

serve their country and can't buy a home in the country they defended. Is there anything you or HUD can do?

Ed Morris Flemington, NJ

John C. Weicher
My friend Keith Pedigo is the director of the VA Housing Service. Contact him at VA. I'm sure he can help you find a lender. FHA has 25,000 lenders nationally. And hundreds in New Jersey who can help you. But we at HUD don't guarantee VA loans. But the VA is the best place for you to go. is a good place for you to start.

Jerry, from Traverse City Michigan writes:
Dear Sir. As the Homeless Outreach Coordinator for Americorps Vista and Goodwill Industries, I woluld like to know when we can expect to see more low income housing offered in Northern Michigan. I have over 300 people on the street on any given day. With only 50,000 permiment residents, 40 low income Apts. Avalible, it makes for a long day.

You must be Busy.

Thank you for the time and atttion in this matter.

May God Richly Bless You

Jerry DeRousse.

John C. Weicher
Hello Jerry

We're making available over $1 billion for homeless housing providers this year. Never before has any federal agency awarded so much financial assistance to help the homeless.

We're also making 750 million available for new housing for the elderly and the disabled including the mentally ill.

I have family in Newaygo and I know there are housing needs in western Michigan.

Here is more information about this program:


Lou, from DC writes:
Is right now a good time to buy a condohome? I live in DC where the rent prices are steep, and I was wondering if it would be a better investment to buy a place. Do you have any other tips on surviving an expensive market like DC?

John C. Weicher
We've lived in DC for thirty years and our home has been a good investment for us. But it is expensive when you are buying your first one. Generally owning your own home is a good investment but you have to shop carefully.

And you have to make sure you can afford it to start with. There are a number of counseling agencies here that can help you.

Try our 800 number -- (800) 569-4287

Good luck

Sharon, from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
Hello, As a woman who owns a small drywall company here in Pittsburgh, I am excited about possibilies of doing HUD projects. Where do I begin? Thank


John C. Weicher
Most projects are owned and managed by local governments or private developers. We have an office in Pittsburgh -- they should be able to help you contact them.

Patricia, from Tate, Georgia writes:
In November of 2002 a tornado came through my neighborhood and destroyed a lot of homes. My house was spared. It did some damage, but it was left standing. I was the only one in the area that did not have homeowners insurance. The reason being, the wiring is faulty. I can't get any one to insure me, and I can't blame them. I am still struggling to get my house

repaired. Is there any government organization that could help me?

John C. Weicher
Hello Patricia

I'm sorry about your home.

You should contact a local housing counseling agency. The 800 number is: (800) 569-4287.

You will meet with a housing counselor who should be able to tell you who locally can help you.

Derry, from Cambridge writes:
Are you concerned about a "bubble" in house prices? How does one identify house and land price bubbles? Do you think that the GSEs hold sufficent capital against the possibility of a bubble?

John C. Weicher
Most analysts don't think there is a bubble. Prices and incomes have been going up at about the same rate over the last ten years or so. With respect to the GSEs, their regulator has concluded that they meet the capital standards established by Congress.

The administration has asked Congress to strengthen the regulation of the GSEs.

For those of you who don't know, the GSEs are Government Sponsored Enterprises (Fannie May and Freddie Mac) that buy mortgages from lenders.

adeline, from paradise, california writes:
i am a 70 year old woman veteran living solely on social security. is there a program to help me own my own place.? thankyou.

John C. Weicher
We've doubled the money for housing counseling in this administration. We provide money to housing counseling agencies which may be able to help you. Call our 1 800 number to get the names and addresses of the agency in your community.

Kendall, from Jacksonville, Fl writes:
I am a real estate appraiser and my question is what: What is the government doing about appraisal fraud. I know there are a lot of "number hitters" out there that get an appraisal request from a lender, the request has the price needed for the loan and the appraiser makes it work. There is a lot of pressure on appriasers to "hit the number" because you want to make a living and there are many appraisers that don't think twice about it. I had a request come in the other day for $230,000. I looked up the property in the Multiple Listing Service and the contract price was $175,900. The buyer was going to flip the property, the lender had an appriasal that he had done and it came out to $230,000. Some on the information was incorrect. The lender needed us to rubber stamp it becuase his lender was not approved. I appraised it for $177,000. I dont think we will get any more of his business. There has to be a way to be more objective and independent, instead of dealing directly with the loan officer. I dont think a lot of people understand what can happen when appriasers hit numbers and artifically raise values in an area. It can cause serouis problems for the national economy. There are quite a few of us that are honest appraisers and want to do good work, but when people think that you just fill out a form and give them what they ask, it makes the good guys look bad. Thank you for your time.

John C. Weicher

At HUD, we only have the legal authority to fight appraisal fraud on FHS insured mortgages. We've established tighter qualifications to be a HUD approved appraiser and we've developed a program called Appraiser Watch.

We track appraisers by the default rates on the homes they've appraised and we do field reviews on the ones with high default rates. We've sanctioned 100 appraisers in the last year.

We've also established an anti-flipping rule . We won't insure a mortgage if the home is sold twice inside of 90 days. Keep doing your job the best you can.

John, from Denton, MD. writes:
I've been saving toward my first home and I've heard that being a first time buyer has certain advantages; what are they?


John C. Weicher
Your mortgage interest and your property taxes are deductable on your federal and state income taxes and for most people the value of their home increases from year to year. And the money you pay on your mortgage builds the equity on your home.

By all means, keep saving.

FHA can insure a mortgage if you can make a three percent downpayment. And we've asked Congress for approval to insure mortgages with a zero downpayment.

Loretta, from Charleston, West Virginia writes:
How is the American Dream Down Payment Act helping to close the housing gap in minority homeownership?

John C. Weicher
Good question, Loretta

President Bush signed the American Dream Downpayment Act into law in December 2003. This fund will help approximately 40,000 families a year with their down payment and closing costs and is set to begin helping families early this spring.

The American Dream Downpayment Act builds upon an existing program - the HOME program, which helps communities across the country expand the supply of decent, affordable housing. Through the existing flexibility of the HOME program, grants will be awarded to state and local governments to assist eligible families with closing costs and downpayments. Opportunities for low- and moderate-income families looking to purchase their first homes will multiply.

To participate, recipients must have annual incomes that do not exceed 80 percent of the area median income. Based on current experience in the HOME program, it is anticipated that the initiative will help 40,000 families annually, with an average subsidy of $5,000. By opening the door to homeownership to more families, the Administration hopes to stabilize some troubled neighborhoods and revitalize others.

To find out more, go here:

Lynnette, from Bothell, WA writes:
I have been and still am in the process of buying a first home for myself and my husband, 2 kids and my mother. I've had some hurdles to get over to even be considered by a lender. My commentquestion is this: Why is it that we don't teach basic money management in our middleschools,Jr. highs and high schools in this country? It seems to me, teaching people the basic functions of budgeting, home ownership and finance in school would make this a much healthier country, both fiscally and otherwise. Does your department have the authority to set something like that in motion on a national basis?

John C. Weicher
We don't have that authority but we work with other government agencies and with banks and financial institutions to promote financial literacy. On behalf of HUD I serve on the new Commission on Financial Literacy and Education and we want to help people learn about budgeting in any way that we can.

sally, from ohio writes:
My husband and me have three children. He works full time making 14.50 an hour. I was run over by a drunk driver and had to leave my work as a respitory therapist and am now on disablity. We dont have great credit, but not terrible. We want to buy a house in our current school district. We pay 800 dollars a month for rent and think a house payment would be a better way to spend that money. How can the goverment help us?

John C. Weicher
FHA insures mortgages for families who can make a three percent down payment. I used to teach in Columbus and $800 per month would be enough to afford a good house there.

We've also asked Congress for authority to insure mortgages when the family cant afford any down payment if they can meet the monthly payments and they have decent credit. It doesn't have to be great credit.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
What is your advice for people buying their first house?

John C. Weicher
Save as much as you can. Shop carefully. If you find a house, ask if it qualifies for FHA insurance. We can insure the home if you can make a three percent down payment and you have decent credit.

Brandon, from Plymouth, Indiana writes:
What programs are in the works to help assist people to purchase their own home. I desire to have my own home yet I am finding it very difficult to meet the quidline.

John C. Weicher
President Bush signed the American Dream Downpayment Act last December . This will help 40,000 families per year with their downpayment and closing costs. The money will become available this spring.

John C. Weicher
Thanks for your questions. I've enjoyed having the chance to answer them. Most people ask about buying a home and I want to mention again that the President's American Dream Down payment Act will help families and closing costs starting this Spring. Also, there are housing counseling agencies in most communities. You can fing your local agency by calling our 1 800 number -- scroll up. We've doubled the funding for counseling agencies. We have a record home ownership rate in our country now and a record minority home ownership rate and we intend to build on that record.