Thursday, February 4, 1999
We are truly living in a golden age of homeownership in America. Six years ago, if you had said that America today would have the highest homeownership rate in history, the highest six-year rise in homeownership in history, the highest level of Hispanic and African-American homeownership in history, and the highest rate of new construction jobs since Harry Truman was in the White House -- most people wouldn't have believed you. But then, there aren't many people who believed that we could take the highest budget deficit in history and turn it into the highest budget surplus in history, either.
Together, we knew: that fiscal discipline was the surest path to increased homeownership. Today, I am proud to say that with your help, five days ago, the Clinton Gore Administration submitted another balanced budget -- to help keep interest rates low and housing starts high, well into the 21st Century.
We know: this partnership has been about more than statistics. We're not just building homes, we're building communities. As a friend of mine who owns a grocery store in inner-city Richmond likes to say: "our goal isn't just to build more neighborhoods. Our goal is to put the neighbor back in the hood."
And there is nowhere where that progress is being felt more than America's cities. As a nation, we not only have the highest budget surplus ever -- we now officially have the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history. For the first time in a generation, our central cities and distressed rural areas are sharing in that prosperity. I was proud to see in the latest round of homeownership accomplishments that for the first time in recorded history, more families own their own homes than rent in America's cities. That means a more stable foundation to help carry America's cities -- and America's economy -- into the 21st Century.
We have more work to do. The fact that a little more than of our families in America's cities own their own homes means that nearly half don't. We can't see them as renters -- to us, they are future home buyers. We have to work together to turn that goal into reality. For our part, we know: government doesn't build houses, and we don't sell them. But we can work to create the strong foundation our central cities need to attract more homeowners. One thing we have learned the past thirty years is that we cannot look at a community as the sum of its parts. Every part of the community has to be strong.
It's not enough to have safe streets without good schools, or affordable housing but no jobs and businesses. That's why, over the past six years, our community empowerment agenda has focused on giving people the tools they need to build strong communities on all fronts.
Through initiatives like Empowerment Zones and Community Development banks, we are working to get start-up capital into the hands of small businesses that need it most -- and we are especially proud of the fact that of the more than $1 trillion in private sector financial commitments that have been made to distressed communities under the Community Reinvestment Act -- more than 95 percent has been made since 1992.
Through our community policing initiative, we are well on our way to putting 100,000 new police on our streets -- which has helped produce the largest drop in violent crime in more than two decades. Last year, we made our first down payment on 100,000 new teachers for America's schools -- and as part of this year's budget, we are asking Congress to finish the job, and work with us to rebuild and modernize 5,000 schools. We are making new efforts to move people from welfare to work, and we have even proposed new funding to help America's cities build more parks and green spaces where parents can play with their children in safety.
Together, we have built a strong foundation for growth in America's cities, and set the stage for a whole new generation of homeowners. Today, I am proud to announce that we are building on that foundation, and taking the housing partnership that has brought America so much success one step further. Today, I am proud to announce that the National Association of Homebuilders and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are coming together with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to commit themselves to the goal of building one million new homes in America's central cities over the next ten years. That's on top of the 250,000 new homes that are already being built in America's central cities each year.
As part of this agreement, NAHB will work with its more than 800 state and local home builder associations to encourage them to work with communities to build homes in our inner cities; the Conference of Mayors will encourage its members to work with HUD and NAHB to identify and remove barriers to the private sector for new home production; and HUD will provide community builders to assist mayors and homebuilders in bringing agencies together and identifying new federal resources.
I am also proud to announce that this partnership is also working together to create a new "Council on Building Homes in America's Cities." This Council will be based at the U.S. Conference of Mayors and will develop a detailed plan for achieving the goal of a million homes over the next ten years.
We are counting on all of you to make it happen. For more than 200 years, homeownership has been the cornerstone of the American Dream. With what some are calling the best economy in American history, we have it within our power to make sure that dream reaches even more corners of America. That's the goal. Working together, we will turn that goal into a reality. Thank you.