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Bush Seeks to Increase Minority Home Ownership In US - 2002-10-15

President Bush says his plan to help more Hispanic and African-Americans own their own homes will also help the U.S. economy.

While nearly three-quarters of white Americans are homeowners, less than half of Hispanic and African-Americans families own their own homes.

President Bush says he wants to close that gap with a package of financial incentives to increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families by the end of the decade. "It's a gap that we have got to work together to close for the good of our country, for the sake of a more hopeful future. We have got to work to knock-down the barriers that have created a homeownership gap," he said.

Some of those barriers include access to credit and confusion over the legal complications of home buying.

Skeptics say they agree with the president's goal, but say more attention should be focused on making low cost rental housing available to people who can not afford to buy a home.

The president wants Congress to put $200 million into what he calls the "American Dream Downpayment Fund" to help 40,000 qualifying families a year make a down payment or pay closing costs.

The plan, which was first announced in June, would give more than two billion dollars in tax credits to encourage contractors to build or refurbish 200,000 homes for low and moderate-income families.

It also hopes to simplify home-buying by making the settlement process easier and increasing financial education for first-time homebuyers.

President Bush told a White House conference on minority homeownership that those incentives will generate $256 billion of activity for the U.S. economy. "The idea of encouraging new homeownership and the money that will be circulated as a result of people purchasing homes will mean people are more likely to find a job in America. This project not only is good for the soul of the country, it is good for the pocketbook of the country as well," Mr. Bush said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Tuesday reported that meeting the president's goal of increasing minority homeownership 40 percent by 2010 would generate more than four million new jobs and $150 billion in wages.

The president is talking more about the U.S. economy as he campaigns for Republican candidates in next month's Congressional elections. Polls show Americans want Mr. Bush to pay closer attention to the economy as he continues to push for action against Iraq.