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DR. BEN CARSON
SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
AT THE HOUSING FORUM FOR HOMEOWNERSHIP MONTH
WASHINGTON, D.C.
JUNE 1, 2017

As prepared for delivery. The speaker may add or subtract comments during his presentation.

Thank you. Good afternoon. I am pleased to see so many of you here today. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this forum possible. I would especially like to thank our panelists who have joined us here today: Joel Kan, Christie Peale, Jon Spader, and Lawrence Yun. With our moderator, Diana Olick. All distinguished … respected voices that carry great weight … with key, valuable insights.

People thrive in “a marketplace of ideas.” Today, this is our marketplace. We can use our exchange of ideas to make our work better, more human, stronger, and more effective. Today marks the beginning of National Homeownership Month—a time when we recognize the abiding value of owning a home, and rededicate ourselves toward ensuring that every hardworking and credit-worthy American enjoys a fair chance at becoming a homeowner.

The importance of homeownership is apparent to all of us … security, certainty, safety, wealth creation, a path forward, self-sufficiency, a place to live with loved ones, to raise our families, the location of our neighborhood. And our homes are the places that our pets, kids, friends and relatives create their world. In our homes, we live, grow and thrive as one, together.

Our Founding Fathers linked property with happiness and life itself. It is the essence of freedom, a stake in the city and the political system. They saw that homeownership was as vital as commerce, trade, and community. It is the foundation of the economy, the spark for vast investment, lending, and finance.

Recently, Reuters published an article titled “Housing Recovery Intact.” Indeed, it is. After the turbulence of 2008, the market has become relatively stable, secure, and sound. The system is functioning. Yes, there is room for improvement, more stability, more growth.  There are still small, significant fluctuations. But the dramatic highs and lows of the past have evened out to become steady, almost predictable, a reasonably straight and rising line forward and upward on the charts. The cycles have become less dramatic. And, we are seeing good news in startups, sales, demand, labor, mortgage rates, sentiment, stocks, building, turnover, and inventory, among the many sides of homeownership. 

Currently, the homeownership rate is 63.6 percent. In some states, homeownership is over 70 percent. And first-time home buyers make up 35 percent of all homebuyers in the last twelve months. These figures represent more than paper, facts, titles, and mortgages. We can see the hopes and dreams … the aspirations and excitement … of homeownership. And we know that homeownership is the thread that runs through almost every aspect of our economy and our nation. This good news will continue. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies projects that the United States will add 13.6 million households over the next eight years and 11.5 million more between 2025 and 2035.

I am pleased to say that our own Federal Housing Administration has a strong role to play. FHA has already helped more than 46 million Americans purchase or refinance their homes. An estimated 40 percent of all first-time homebuyers use FHA. In fact, during our time here together … today … FHA will help another 4,000 homebuyers close on their homes. This is our work … the face of our part of the economy …. and the personal side of our day.

Of course, there are some who find bad news in good news. That is part of the marketplace of ideas. We must listen and learn. They worry about lending patterns, down payments, rates of investment, rates of borrowing, rates of interest, and many other of the sides of homeownership. I can appreciate their concerns. We must heed worries and warnings. We must be prudent and wise, far-reaching and visionary. We want to make sure that homeownership is on solid ground, now and in the future. We need ethical behavior, risk within smart boundaries, and best practices, personally and financially. We must follow those practices that are fair, responsible, transparent, and prudent. The bankers, lenders and investors are not playing with monopoly money… they have been entrusted with a duty to safeguard the hard-earned money of others. And we must hold them to their duties … fiduciary and otherwise, not just in words, but actions and investments. As we learned in 2008, the consequences of irresponsible behavior are national … and international.

International. Yes, our work has far-reaching impact, from Helsinki to Hong Kong, from Cape Town to Cairo. Homeownership in the United States is examined in places like Iceland, Switzerland, Jordan, and Australia. Worldwide. We are under an international microscope. In many ways, the American housing market ripples through the economies of each company, every enterprise, and each country around the planet.

Let me add a personal comment to our HUD employees. Our words and our actions are weighed, scrutinized, and evaluated…. worldwide …. every day. That is one reason why our work is important. We represent America to the nation and the world. Your hard work matters.

So this topic … homeownership … could not be more important and timely. I look forward to our panel discussion. Again, thank you for coming. And thanks to each one of you for your work to enhance self-sufficiency, freedom, independence, wealth creation, and the future security of American homeowners.

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