Homeownership an achievable reality
By By Chip Pickering / u.s. congressman
June 22, 2004
Good housing and affordable home ownership can transform communities and change lives. Every community throughout America values the pride and financial benefits that accompany homeownership.
Homeownership strengthens neighborhoods as owners develop deeper roots and interests with personal investments into their home and communities. Homeownership is more than a dream; it is an achievable reality.
For the third straight year, President George W. Bush has designated June as National Homeownership Month and directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take the homeownership message into every American community.
Together with the Bush Administration and Mississippi partners, Congress continues to work to open the opportunities of homeownership to all Americans and everyone in Mississippi.
In June 2002, President Bush announced that increasing home ownership would be a priority of his administration and today's homeownership rate is a record high of 68.6 percent, which includes an increase of more than 1.5 million minority homeowners.
The minority homeownership rate currently stands at 50.6 percent, marking the first time ever a majority of minority family households are resident owned.
Current homeownership numbers indicate a strong economy providing individuals and families the financial stability to purchase homes. New home sales for March increased 8.9 percent over February and 21.8 percent over a year ago.
Existing home sales rose 7.2 percent over last year. Housing starts in March were 15.2 percent above last year and 6.4 percent over February. New home construction and rising housing equity have added $3.8 trillion to homeowner wealth since the end of 2000.
Recent and current legislation will continue this growth in homeownership. The American Dream Down Payment Act, passed by Congress last year and signed by President Bush, will help about 40,000 families a year with their down payments and closing costs.
Here at home, Mississippi's homeownership rate in 2003 was a record high of 73.4 percent, much higher than the record national level of 68.3 percent. But there is more to do.
HUD has helped nearly 1500 Mississippians buy their first home this year. In Meridian, we recently announced a $17.3 million Housing and Urban Development HOPE VI grant for public housing. In addition to mixed income rental units, this grant creates 40 family home ownership opportunities, moving individuals from public housing to private home ownership.
Many Mississippians seek homeownership assistance from the Mississippi Home Corporation (MHC). This public/private organization can assist low or middle income earners purchase their own homes. They also assist developers, non-profit organizations and other entities concerned with affordable housing.
MHC administers a program that provides $6,000 grants for down-payments for teachers who purchase a home in a critical shortage area where they agree to teach for three years. There is another program that provides a $10,000 grant for persons with disabilities to retrofit an existing home or buy a new home. Generally, MHC can help with low interest loans for future homeowners as well as down payment assistance. They also provide financing assistance for the construction and purchase of new homes.
MHC provides low and moderate income first-time qualifying homebuyers with a direct dollar for dollar reduction in their federal taxes resulting in a lower, more affordable monthly payment for borrowers or a larger tax return at the end of the year. For eligible developers, MHC provides federal tax credits to build market rate apartments at affordable rents for low or middle income individuals or families. MHC maintains a lease purchase program for borrowers with bad credit providing the borrower with 39 months to improve their credit score and secure a conventional loan while MHC assists in immediate purchase.
If you are looking on purchasing your first home, or want to take advantage of some of the opportunities discussed in this column, please contact Mississippi's branch of HUD at (601) 965-4757 or call the Mississippi Home Corporation at (601) 718-4636. Both are located in Jackson. On the Web you can visit www.hud.gov for HUD or www.mshc.com for the Mississippi Home Corporation.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., of Laurel, represents Mississippi's 3rd Congressional District.