[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[June 5, 1995]
[Pages 805-808]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



Remarks on the National Homeownership Strategy
June 5, 1995

    Look at it this way, Jean, all your other speeches will be easier 
now. [Laughter] You did very well, and I thank you and Jim for coming.
    Ladies and gentlemen, I have looked forward to this day for a long 
time, and I care a lot about this issue. I'm glad to see so many 
distinguished Americans here. I welcome Congressman Bono, who was, 
before he became a Congressman, a mayor and therefore has an intimate 
personal experience with this whole issue. And I'm, of course, delighted 
to see my good friend Millard Fuller here, who has done as much to make 
the dream of homeownership a reality in our country and throughout the 
world as any

[[Page 806]]

living person. And we thank you, sir, for your work.
    Before I get into my remarks, I think it's important for me to make 
a brief reference to another subject. Congress is coming back to work 
today after a break, and the anti-terrorism bill that I sent to Congress 
is being considered in the Senate. It will give law enforcement the 
tools it needs to crack down on terrorists that they, people in law 
enforcement, asked me to seek from Congress, first a couple of months 
before the Oklahoma City tragedy, to deal especially with the problems 
of international terrorism coming into the United States, and then some 
more things that were asked for in the wake of Oklahoma City.
    This is very, very serious legislation. The Congress not only has 
the right, it has the responsibility to review the bill and to hear 
those who think that in some ways its law enforcement provisions are too 
tough. There ought to be a full debate. But we cannot afford to let 
scores of unnecessary amendments drag down this process. In that I agree 
with the statements made by the majority leader of the Senate, Senator 
Dole. So I call upon my fellow Democrats and Republicans to limit 
amendments, curb politics, ignore narrow interests, to agree to the 
simple pact that there should be no excuses, no games, no delays. The 
time is now to enact this important legislation.
    You can be sure that terrorists around the world are not delaying 
their plans while we delay the passage of this bill. It is within our 
reach now to dramatically strengthen our law enforcement capabilities 
and to enhance the ability of people in law enforcement to protect all 
kinds of Americans. We have an obligation to do that. And so I would 
urge the Congress to take this bill up and to get on with it, to limit 
the number of amendments as soon as possible so that we can go forward.
    Now, let me get back to the subject at hand. I am delighted to be 
here. You might ask, why do I care about home ownership? After all, I 
live in America's finest public housing. [Laughter] The answer is, I 
once had a life, and I hope to have one again some day. [Laughter] When 
I was 19, I built a home as part of what I did that summer.
    When I was trying to coax my wife into marrying me, we were both 
living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, teaching at the University of 
Arkansas. And I had not gotten a definite answer; I think that's the 
most delicate way I can put this. [Laughter] And Hillary had to go away 
to somewhere--I can't remember where she was going now, but anyway she 
was taking a trip on an airplane, so I was driving her to the airport. 
And we drove by this wonderful old house. It was an old, old, very small 
house, and she said, ``Boy, that's a beautiful house.'' And I noticed 
that there was a little ``For Sale'' sign on it. So I took her to the 
airport, went back, and bought the house. And when she came home after 
the trip, I drove by the house. I said, ``See that house you liked? I 
bought it while you were gone. Now you have to marry me.'' [Laughter] 
And it worked; 20 years ago this fall, it worked. Most people do it the 
other way around, but you know--[laughter]
    I still remember that home cost $20,500. It had about 1,100 square 
feet. And I had about a $17,500 mortgage on it, and my payments were 
about $176 a month, as I remember, something like that. And that was 20 
years ago this fall that I signed that fortuitous contract.
    Those prices aren't very much available anymore, but the objective 
for young people, with their futures before them and their dreams fresh 
in their minds, starting out their families, to be able to own their 
home and to start a family in that way, that's a worthy objective--just 
as worthy today and, I would argue to you, more important today than it 
was 20 years ago, more important today than it was 20 years ago. We just 
had a report come out last week asserting that it may be that up to one-
third of our children are now born out of wedlock. You want to reinforce 
family values in America, encourage two-parent households, get people to 
stay home? Make it easy for people to own their own homes and enjoy the 
rewards of family life and see their work rewarded. This is a big deal. 
This is about more than money and sticks and boards and windows. This is 
about the way we live as a people and what kind of society we're going 
to have.
    And I cannot say enough in terms of my appreciation to Secretary 
Cisneros, who is a genuine visionary, to the Vice President for all the 
work he and the National Performance Review have done on this, and to 
all of our partners who are here, all the people in public and private 
life whose work is home ownership. Since the day I asked Secretary 
Cisneros to build this strategy, he has done about everything a human 
being could do. And I can say without knowing

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that I'm overstating it, that if we succeed in doing this, if we succeed 
in making that number happen, it will be one of the most important 
things that this administration has ever done, and we're going to do it 
without spending more tax money.
    Two years ago, I met a couple having their own first home dream come 
true. They're here today. Patty and Matt Murray had just bought a home 
in Frederick, Maryland, where I was visiting, promoting my economic plan 
along with the realtors to bring down the deficit, to bring down 
interest rates, to bring down home mortgage rates so people can afford 
to buy their own home. Now they have a stake in a better life, and I'm 
glad that they're here today. I would like to ask them to stand. I would 
also like to ask now all the other young couples that came here--I just 
want you to see them. That's where I was 20 years ago. I want all of you 
to stand here, all these first-time homebuyers that we invited to come 
here. [Applause]
    We have to remember that there are millions of people just like them 
who believe that home ownership is out of reach. They may be paying 
monthly rents that could cover a mortgage payment. They may scrape to 
save, but a downpayment is still out of reach. They are locked out by 
rigid restrictions or by a home-buying system just, as Jean said, too 
difficult or too frightening. And that is not right.
    One of the great successes of the United States in this century has 
been the partnership forged by the National Government and the private 
sector to steadily expand the dream of home ownership to all Americans. 
In 1934, President Roosevelt created the Federal Housing Administration 
and made home ownership available to millions of Americans who couldn't 
afford it before that.
    Fifty-one years ago just this month, Harry Truman rewarded service 
men and women with the GI bill of rights, which created the VA Home Loan 
Guarantee Program. That extended the dream of home ownership to a whole 
new generation of Americans. For four decades after that, in the 
greatest period of expansion of middle class dreams any country has ever 
seen anywhere in human history, home ownership expanded as incomes rose, 
jobs increased, the educational level of the American people improved.
    But in the 1980's, as the Vice President said, that dream began to 
slip away. I ran for President in large measure because I wanted to 
restore that dream, to grow the middle class, shrink the under class, 
promote the mainstream values of work and responsibility, family and 
community, and reform Government in a way that would enhance opportunity 
and shrink bureaucracy.
    We've made good progress, but we have to do a lot more. I ask all of 
you just one more time to look at that chart. And I wish I had a lot of 
other charts to show you that would reinforce that. Home ownership 
declines, then stabilizes at a lower level. At the same time, more and 
more American families working harder for the same or lower wages every 
year, under new and difficult stresses. It seems to me that we have a 
serious, serious unmet obligation to try to reverse these trends. As 
Secretary Cisneros says, this drop in home ownership means 1.5 million 
families who would now be in their own homes if the 46 years of home 
ownership expansion had not been reversed in the 1980's.
    Now we have begun to expand it again. Since 1993, nearly 2.8 million 
new households have joined the ranks of America's homeowners, nearly 
twice as many as in the previous 2 years. But we have to do a lot 
better. The goal of this strategy, to boost home ownership to 67.5 
percent by the year 2000, would take us to an all-time high, helping as 
many as 8 million American families across that threshold.
    This is the new way home for the American middle class. We have got 
to raise incomes in this country. We have got to increase security for 
people who are doing the right thing, and we have got to make people 
believe that they can have some permanence and stability in their lives 
even as they deal with all the changing forces that are out there in 
this global economy.
    No person, even the President, can look at these young people and 
say, I will guarantee you, no matter what happens in the global economy, 
you will always have the job you have today, and you'll make more money 
next year than you did this year. You know no one can guarantee that in 
the global economy. That's not the way the world works anymore.
    But we can guarantee to people that we're going to empower them to 
help themselves. We'll make home ownership more accessible. We'll make 
lifetime education and training more accessible. We'll make the things 
that make life work for people who are trying to do the best

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they can for themselves there. We have to begin with the basic things 
that make it worth doing.
    As the Vice President and I said in a book we put out in the 
election campaign in 1992, our economic strategy includes a commitment 
to work to provide decent, safe, affordable homes to all Americans and 
to do it with an alliance of the public and private sector.
    I want to say this one more time, and I want to thank again all the 
people here from the private sector who have worked with Secretary 
Cisneros on this: Our home ownership strategy will not cost the 
taxpayers one extra cent. It will not require legislation. It will not 
add more Federal programs or grow Federal bureaucracy.
    It's 100 specific actions that address the practical needs of people 
who are trying to build their own personal version of the American 
dream, to help moderate income families who pay high rents but haven't 
been able to save enough for a downpayment, to help lower income working 
families who are ready to assume the responsibilities of home ownership 
but held back by mortgage costs that are just out of reach, to help 
families who have historically been excluded from home ownership. Today, 
all across the country, I say to millions of young working couples who 
are just starting out: By the time your children are ready to start the 
first grade, we want you to be able to own your own home.
    All of our country will reap enormous benefits if we achieve this 
goal. Home ownership encourages savings and investment. When a family 
buys a home, the ripple effect is enormous. It means new homeowner 
consumers. They need more durable goods, like washers and dryers, 
refrigerators and water heaters. And if more families could buy new 
homes or older homes, more hammers will be pounding, more saws will be 
buzzing. Homebuilders and home fixers will be put to work. When we boost 
the number of homeowners in our country, we strengthen our economy, 
create jobs, build up the middle class, and build better citizens.
    I thank Millard Fuller especially for the work that Habitat for 
Humanity has done in building better citizens. I remember the day we 
dedicated the very first Habitat house built in my home State, that went 
to a woman who went to church with me and worked for the State 
government and still her income was so low she was eligible to be 
considered there. And I was so proud of her because she and her 
children, for the first time, felt that all these incredible years of 
sacrifice and labor she had endured were about to be rewarded. And it 
made her a better citizen, and it made everybody that put a hammer to a 
nail a better citizen, and it made all of us who saw it unfold better 
citizens.
    H.L. Mencken once wrote that ``A home is not a mere transient 
shelter, its essence lies in its permanence, in its quality of 
representing in all its details the personalities of the people who live 
in it.''
    What we are doing today will allow more homes to be blessed by more 
families. I hope it will start all these young people on a path that 
will take them to great joys in their personal lives, and perhaps to 
other homes, but something they will always know that their country 
wanted them to have because they were entitled to it as a part of the 
American dream.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:50 a.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to new homeowners Jean Mikitz, who 
introduced the President, and her husband, Jim; and Millard Fuller, 
founder and president, Habitat for Humanity International.