October 15, 2002: White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership
Highlights from the text of the President`s remarks:
[00:27] You see, we want everybody in America to own their own home. That`s what we want. This is—an ownership society is a compassionate society.
More and more people own their homes in America today. Two-thirds of all Americans own their homes. Yet, we have a problem here in America because fewer than half of the Hispanics and half the African Americans own the home.
That`s a homeownership gap. It`s a gap that we`ve got to work together to close for the good of our country, for the sake of a more hopeful future. We`ve got to work to knock down the barriers that have created a homeownership gap.
I set an ambitious goal. It`s one that I believe we can achieve. It`s a clear goal, that by the end of this decade we`ll increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families. ...
[01:58] Achieving the goal is going to require some good policies out of Washington. And it`s going to require a strong commitment from those of you involved in the housing industry. Just by showing up at the conference, you show your commitment. ...
[06:58] All of us here in America should believe, and I think we do, that we should be, as I mentioned, a nation of owners. Owning something is freedom, as far as I`m concerned. It`s part of a free society, and ownership of a home helps bring stability to neighborhoods. You own your home in a neighborhood, you have more interest in how your neighborhood feels, looks, whether it`s safe or not. It brings pride to people. It`s a part of an asset-based society. It helps people build up their own individual portfolio, provides an opportunity, if need be, for a mom or a dad to leave something to their child. It`s a part of—it`s a part of being a—it`s a part of—an important part of America. ...
To open up the doors of homeownership there are some barriers, and I want to talk about four that need to be overcome.
First, downpayments—a lot of folks can`t make a downpayment. They may be qualified. They may desire to buy a home, but they don`t have the money to make a downpayment. I think if you were to talk to a lot of families that are—desire to have a home, they would tell you that the downpayment is the hurdle that they can`t cross.
... Another obstacle to minority homeownership is the lack of information. You know, getting into your own home can be complicated. It can be a difficult process. I had that very same problem. [Laughter]
Every homebuyer has responsibilities and rights that need to be understood clearly. And yet when you look at some of the contracts, there`s a lot of small print. And you can imagine somebody newly arrived from Peru looking at all that print and saying, ``I`m not sure I can possibly understand that. Why do I want to buy a home?`` ...
The other thing Kirbyjon told me, which I really appreciate, is you don`t have to have a lousy home for first-time homebuyers. If you put your mind to it, the first-time homebuyer, the low-income homebuyer can have just as nice a house as anybody else.
Now, my argument that there was a direction connection between Bush`s 2002-2003 campaign against down payment requirements on mortgages — which he repeatedly rationalized in the name of the Ownership Society and fighting racial in equality — and the subsequent housing bubble and crash and the ensuing Great Recession is not a popular one.
One of the few who have publicly suggested it is George W. Bush himself, who apologized for it on p. 449 of Decision Points, his 2010 memoirs:
"At the height of the housing boom, homeownership hit an all-time high of almost 70 percent. I had supported policies to expand homeownership, including down-payment assistance for low-income and first-time buyers. I was pleased to see the ownership society grow. But the exuberance of the moment masked the underlying risk. Together, the global pool of cash, easy monetary policy, booming housing market, insatiable appetite for mortgage-backed assets, complexity of Wall Street financial engineering, and leverage of financial institutions created a house of cards. This precarious structure was fated to collapse as soon as the underlying card—the nonstop growth of housing prices—was pulled out. That was clear in retrospect. But very few saw it at the time, including me."
Maybe we should take Bush`s word for it ...
P.S., an earlier (6/17/02), more coherent speech by Bush demanding the same things can be seen on video here.