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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.

Alphonso Jackson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

June 3, 2005

Alphonso Jackson
Good afternoon. I’m Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. This is a great time to be talking about housing, so I’m 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, we’ll 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 child’s development. That’s why I’m so pleased that more American families own their homes today than at any time in our nation’s history. Nearly 75 million Americans are homeowners, and minority homeownership is at an all-time high.

I’ll be happy to take your questions.

Elizabeth, from St. Louis writes:
How exactly is home ownership month being celebrated? Can I expect to see an event in my city?

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you for asking about National Homeownership Month, Elizabeth. We’re excited by the opportunity to showcase what homeownership can do for families, and how it strengthens communities and the entire nation. As the President said in his 2005 National Homeownership Month proclamation, “The spread of ownership and opportunity helps give our citizens a vital stake in the future of America and the chance to realize the great promise of our country.”

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 – it’s on June 25 at Harris Stowe State College. For more information, you can visit HUD’s calendar of Missouri events at:

A similar calendar is available for every state. Stop by our home page at 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 to learn more.

Kirk, from Milwaukee, WI writes:
Mr. Secretary: I am considering buying my first home and am concerned with Alan Greenspan's comment that the national housing market is "froth-like," containing many small bubbles. My concern is that I will buy a house and then have the value of that house fall out from under me. Do you have any words of reassurance for me?

Thank you

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you, Kirk, for your question. A lot of people share your concerns.

It’s no surprise that housing prices have increased so dramatically in some areas of the country. We’ve 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 haven’t 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 won’t suddenly and radically drop.

Jo, from Florida writes:
Dear Mr. Jackson,It's very sad for me you celebrate home ownership month, while my home is desroyed. I think you should do more for people who lost there home by tornados. What do you actually do, is my question? Anyway, I apreciate your work, Regards, Jo Ann

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you, Jo Ann, for your question. I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your home – last year’s hurricane season was devastating for Florida.

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 President’s 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 Florida’s 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 state’s 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 won’t be needed.

Diana, from St. Paul writes:
Is there any first time buyer money available that you know of?

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you, Diana, for your question, which gives me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite programs at HUD, the American Dream Downpayment Initiative.

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 HUD’s 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, we’re requesting $200 million for this program, which could help 40,000 families achieve homeownership. To see if you qualify for downpayment assistance, visit

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:
How can you make home ownership possible for younger workers who want to relocate for employment in the Washington Metropolitan areas? It is great for the economy and for the booming housing industy for those people who currently are afforded to own one(s). How can you support the President's plan for making homeownership possible for all Americans?

Alphonso Jackson
That’s a very good question, Phuong, because in some parts of the country – like Washington, DC – housing has gotten very expensive over the past few years. Sadly, this means that millions of hard-working Americans struggle to find homes and apartments close to their jobs and within their budgets.

In September 2004, the President challenged the nation to increase the number of affordable homes by 7 million over the next 10 years. We’re 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 America’s 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:
Greetings Mr. Jackson, how do you account for the record number of home sales under George W. Bush? He is such a wonderful man, and has done so much for our country. Thank you for your time.

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you, Chris, for your kind words. We’ve seen record home sales because of the President’s commitment to homeownership. In fact, President Bush has done more than any president in HUD’s 40-year history to focus the attention of the nation on the power of homeownership.

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 President’s 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 writes:
Secretary Jackson: Headlines say that homes are most affordable than they have been in years. Just how many Americans own their own home? I know there must be a lot of renters and so forth. But just how many homes are there? and the number of Americans that own them? Thank You

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you, Cliff, for your question – it’s one that I’m very proud to answer. Today, more Americans have achieved the dream of homeownership than at any time in our nation’s history. Nearly 75 million of us are homeowners; this represents nearly 70 percent of all American households.

That’s 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 family’s quickest path to self-sufficiency. And our Administration believes there’s nothing more important that government can do for a family than to help them become self-sufficient. So it’s quite an accomplishment that homeownership has reached such heights in the last four years.

Cathie, from Austin, TX writes:
What exactly has been achieved over the last four and a half years since the President has been office in terms of home ownership?

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you for your question, Cathie. I’ve already talked about the record number of homeowners in America, so I’d like to talk about the accomplishment I’m most proud of – the growth of minority homeownership.

President Bush and I believe that homeownership should be accessible to everyone. But today, minorities are less likely than whites to own homes. That’s why we’re 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. We’ve 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; it’s now approaching 52 percent. Moreover, the minority homeownership gap is at its slimmest margin in history.

We still have more work to do, but I’m proud of our progress so far.

Jordan, from Denver writes:
With interest rates so low and the housing costs continuing to rise, what types of home loans do you recommend most when buying your first home?

Alphonso Jackson
Thank you for writing, Jordan.

With all the financing options available to potential homebuyers, it’s 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 you’ll probably ever make, you’ll need some guidance in order to make the decision that’s right for YOU. I’d 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:

Georgia, from South Bend Indiana writes:
What is being done to help low income Americans acquire affordable housing? I often feel like they have only two options--mobile homes or public housing--and of course while neither are desirable, they do provide for shelter. However, is there any way for low income indivduals to have any other options?

Alphonso Jackson
Thanks for the question, Georgia – it’s one I get asked a lot.

Although we stress homeownership for the many reasons I’ve highlighted today, I recognize that it’s 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 there’s the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which helps two million families every year rent housing in the private market.

You’ll find more information about HUD’s rental assistance programs at:

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:

Tara, from Maryland writes:
Secretary Jackson,Thank you for answering questions today. As a recent college grad (2003) with a good job, I feel I'm spending so much money on rent. I am really interested in buying a homecondo to save money, but don't feel I can ever get ahead to accumulate savings for a down payment.

What suggestions might you have for young professionals in my situation?

Thank you.

Alphonso Jackson
You’re not alone, Tara, in wondering how you can begin saving for a home at the same time you’re making your monthly rental payments. A lot of people struggle with that same problem.

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 President’s American Dream Downpayment Initiative may also be available.

Here’s some helpful information to get you started:

Alphonso Jackson

Thank you for all the great questions. I enjoyed spending some time with “Ask the White House.” As June continues, I hope you take a moment to join us in celebrating National Homeownership Month. If you don’t yet own a home, check out our “Owning Your Future” website at – perhaps it will inspire you to get on the road to homeownership.

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