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.
June 3, 2005
Good afternoon. Im Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. This is a great time to be talking about housing, so Im excited to join Ask the White House today.
President Bush has declared June as National Homeownership Month, and HUD will be celebrating by visiting communities across America. At homeownership fairs and other events, well meet with families and provide them with information that will help them decide if homeownership is right for them.
Homeownership is called the American Dream, and we want more families to realize the transforming power of homeownership. Homeownership leads to financial independence and the accumulation of wealth, and has a positive impact on a childs development. Thats why Im so pleased that more American families own their homes today than at any time in our nations history. Nearly 75 million Americans are homeowners, and minority homeownership is at an all-time high.
Ill be happy to take your questions.
Elizabeth, from St. Louis
Throughout June, HUD will be participating in homeownership fairs and educational programs around the country that bring together lenders, housing counselors, realtors, non-profit organizations, and others involved in making homeownership possible. At least one homeownership fair is happening right there in St. Louis its on June 25 at Harris Stowe State College. For more information, you can visit HUDs calendar of Missouri events at: http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm?state=mo&topic=calendar
A similar calendar is available for every state. Stop by our home page at www.hud.gov and follow the Information by State links on the top right.
HUD has brought together a dozen federal agencies and our private sector-partners to highlight the many local resources that help make homeownership possible. Visit our Owning Your Future website at www.owningyourfuture.gov to learn more.
Kirk, from Milwaukee, WI
Its no surprise that housing prices have increased so dramatically in some areas of the country. Weve seen significant job growth over the past few years, and interest rates have remained historically low. Nonetheless, the rise in housing prices has been very regional in nature mainly confined to major cities and coastal areas. In many markets, particularly in the Midwest and Southwest, people can still find homes with prices that havent risen so dramatically in the past few years.
With that said, housing prices may continue to rise in the hottest markets. But when things settle, I suspect that prices will level off they wont suddenly and radically drop.
Jo, from Florida writes:
Throughout the storms, HUD worked closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to find housing for those left homeless.
Our top priority was to get families back into their homes as quickly as possible. In the weeks immediately following the hurricanes, HUD made about $40 million available to housing agencies in hurricane-damaged areas, to allow them to continue serving those who were affected by the storms.
HUD turned over our inventory of vacant, foreclosed homes to FEMA so that they could make them available for hurricane victims. We also made available $15 million in Family Relocation Vouchers for families who were displaced from damaged HUD properties, and we gave communities great flexibility to use their HUD funds for disaster recovery efforts.
Immediately following the Presidents disaster declaration, I took action to protect FHA mortgage holders in the storm-damaged counties from losing their homes through foreclosure by imposing a 90-day foreclosure moratorium.
In addition, HUD awarded Floridas Department of Community Affairs more than $101 million in disaster recovery funds to distribute to cities and counties for recovery. Governor Bush just signed the states distribution of those dollars into law on June 1. We continue to do all that we can to help hurricane victims.
With the 2006 hurricane season upon us, HUD is fully prepared and we join you in hoping that our assistance wont be needed.
Diana, from St. Paul
The American Dream Downpayment Initiative was first proposed by President Bush during his 2000 campaign. We worked with Congress for three years to enact the legislation, and the President came to HUDs offices here in Washington in December 2003 to sign the Act into law.
Since that day, HUD has helped more than 6,500 families buy their first homes and about 50 percent of the buyers have been minorities. Next year, were requesting $200 million for this program, which could help 40,000 families achieve homeownership. To see if you qualify for downpayment assistance, visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/programs/home/addi/index.cfm.
As a first-time homebuyer, you may also want to learn about FHA-insured loans. Unlike conventional loans that adhere to strict underwriting guidelines, FHA-insured loans require very little cash investment to close a loan, and they provide greater flexibility in calculating household income and payment ratios. The cost of the mortgage insurance is passed along to the homeowner, and is typically included in the monthly payment. In most cases, the insurance cost to the homeowner will drop off after about five years.
No matter what you decide to do, I urge you to seek housing counseling, because it will help you to better understand the process of buying a home. To find a list of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, head to:
Phuong, from Maryland writes:
In September 2004, the President challenged the nation to increase the number of affordable homes by 7 million over the next 10 years. Were pursuing a number of initiatives to achieve that goal.
In his 2006 budget, the President proposed a Homeownership Tax Credit that would encourage the production of affordable homes for middle-income purchasers. We estimate that this will lead to the production of an additional 50,000 homes annually.
In June of 2003, HUD launched Americas Affordable Communities Initiative, which is helping communities across America identify and overcome regulatory barriers to affordable housing. Researchers estimate that unnecessary, duplicative, and outdated regulations can increase housing costs by as much as 35 percent. As communities reevaluate their regulations, our efforts will increase access to affordable housing.
chris, from Idaho writes:
Record home sales are the result of a number of factors, one of which is the growing economy. Over the past two years, the economy has created more than three million jobs. Salaries are rising, unemployment and interest rates are at historically low levels, and because of the Presidents tax cuts, Americans have more money in their pockets than they did before.
We expect 2005 to be another strong year for the housing market.
Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio
Thats a great number, because the President and I believe firmly that homeownership is the key to financial independence, the accumulation of wealth, and stronger, healthier communities.
Homeownership creates community stakeholders who are active in their neighborhoods, civically responsible, and more likely to vote and get involved with local issues. Homeownership offers children a stable living environment that influences their development in measurable ways. In fact, children of homeowners score an average of 9 percent higher in math, and 7 percent higher in reading. They are 25 percent more likely to graduate from high school, and more than twice as likely to graduate from college.
Owning a home is a familys quickest path to self-sufficiency. And our Administration believes theres nothing more important that government can do for a family than to help them become self-sufficient. So its quite an accomplishment that homeownership has reached such heights in the last four years.
Cathie, from Austin, TX
President Bush and I believe that homeownership should be accessible to everyone. But today, minorities are less likely than whites to own homes. Thats why were focused in particular on boosting minority homeownership, because we want to ensure that minority families share equally in the homeownership dream.
Three years ago, to confront the homeownership gap, the President challenged the nation to create 5.5 million new minority homeowners by the end of this decade. Weve made tremendous progress since the President issued his challenge, 2.3 million minority families have achieved the dream of homeownership. And the minority homeownership rate has never been higher; its now approaching 52 percent. Moreover, the minority homeownership gap is at its slimmest margin in history.
We still have more work to do, but Im proud of our progress so far.
Jordan, from Denver writes:
With all the financing options available to potential homebuyers, its no wonder that many people find the homebuying process exhausting. Fixed-rate mortgage? Adjustable-rate mortgage? A hybrid of the two?
The bottom line is that choosing a home loan is a very personal decision, one dictated by your financial situation, your goals, and countless other factors. And because buying a home is the largest transaction youll probably ever make, youll need some guidance in order to make the decision thats right for YOU. Id recommend that you make an appointment with a HUD-approved housing counselor more than a dozen of them are available in the Denver area.
A state-by-state listing of HUD-approved counseling agencies can be found at: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hccprof14.cfm
Georgia, from South Bend Indiana
Although we stress homeownership for the many reasons Ive highlighted today, I recognize that its not always an option for low-income families. You mentioned public housing, which is one of a number of HUD programs that make housing more affordable and accessible for families of limited means. We also have programs that assist elderly persons, individuals with disabilities, HIV/AIDS patients, homeless individuals and families, ex-offenders, and others with special needs. Then theres the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which helps two million families every year rent housing in the private market.
Youll find more information about HUDs rental assistance programs at: http://www.hud.gov/renting/
If you receive housing assistance, you may be able to convert your rent into a mortgage payment. 3,000 low-income families are now using housing vouchers to pay their monthly mortgage or other costs of owning a home. Find out how at: http://www.hud.gov/offices/pih/programs/ph/homeownership.cfm
Tara, from Maryland writes:
What suggestions might you have for young professionals in my situation?
You may be a good candidate for one of the federal mortgage programs. Start by contacting a HUD-funded housing counseling agency that can help you sort through your options. Also, contact your local government to see if there are any local homebuying programs that might work for you. Look in the blue pages of your phone directory for your local office of housing and community development or, if you can't find it, contact your mayor's office or your county executive's office. Downpayment assistance through the Presidents American Dream Downpayment Initiative may also be available.
Heres some helpful information to get you started: http://www.hud.gov/faqs/faqhomebuy.cfm