House Approves Bill to Increase American Homeownership

October 1, 2003

The House of Representatives today approved a bill that will help more Americans to become homeowners by providing $200 million in grant funds to defray mortgage closing costs for 40,000 families annually. The American Dream Downpayment Act, H.R. 1276, which was introduced by Rep. Katherine Harris (FL), was approved by the House today by a voice vote.

"Today, the House of Representatives took a dramatic step toward fulfilling the obligation of a decent and compassionate society – the extension of quality, affordable housing opportunities to every American,"Rep. Harris said. "By extending the American dream of homeownership to tens of thousands of low-income families and individuals, this legislation ensures that they will enjoy a safe, clean, and adequate place to live, while providing them with an unparalleled opportunity to create wealth and improve the lives of their children."

Housing Subcommittee Chairman Ney said, "Saving enough money for a downpayment is the single greatest obstacle to homeownership for low-income families in our nation today. Under this legislation, however, thousands of working families will finally be able to live the American dream and own a home. This single step forward will yield enormous benefits for not only these families, but for the neighborhoods, communities, and ultimately the nation in which we all live. I'm very pleased the House approved this important and needed legislation, and hope for its immediate consideration in the Senate."

The bill would provide $200 million in grants, for each of fiscal years 2004 and 2005, for low-income, first-time homebuyers across the U.S. HUD estimates that the funds will assist approximately 40,000 low-income families annually, with an average of $5,000 going to each family for downpayment and closing costs on their homes.

The grants will be distributed through HUD's HOME program. HOME is a valuable program with a proven track record in providing state and local governments with grants.

"Downpayment and closing costs are the biggest hurdles to homeownership for many American families. By helping those struggling to meet these costs, we can give more families an opportunity to build assets, we can get more Americans into homes, we can create jobs, and we can boost local economies,"said Committee Chairman Oxley.

Although America's homeownership rates continue at all time highs, rates among minority groups continue to lag behind the national average. The American Dream Downpayment Act is part of Congress' efforts to increase minority homeownership in the coming years.

The bill was approved, by voice vote, in the Housing Subcommittee on May 7 and the full House Financial Services Committee on May 21.

Source: House Financial Services Committee

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