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Jackson Pledges to Dismantle Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing

Pledging to work with the nation’s home builders to overcome regulatory barriers that impede the availability of affordable housing, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson outlined several actions his department is taking to provide homeownership opportunities for America’s working families.

“We are reducing FHA paperwork, making it more user-friendly,” he said during last week’s Workforce Housing Symposium. “Exclusionary zoning and gold-plate development standards limit the ability of developers to build homes. These barriers must come down.”

Declaring that the removal of regulatory barriers is a necessary component of any national housing policy, Jackson has directed the agency to carefully review all HUD rules, policies and notices of funding availability to ensure that no unnecessary barriers exist or are proposed.

HUD has also created the Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse, a national Web-based forum that gives state and local governments the ability to share ideas and develop solutions to address unique housing challenges.

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Pointing out that HUD, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security were the only three agencies that did not undergo cuts in the newly passed FY 2005 federal budget, Jackson said that housing is a top priority of the White House.

“This is the first President in the history of this country to be a housing President,” he said. President Bush recognizes that housing has been the engine driving the economy. He is absolutely committed to increasing housing opportunities in this country.”

When he accepted the GOP nomination for President at the Republican National Convention in September, Bush set out a goal of adding seven million additional affordable homes to the nation’s housing roster in the next decade.

Achieving this national objective, Jackson said, will require the joint efforts of the federal government, home builders, outside organizations and state and local governments to encourage the removal of regulatory barriers to affordable housing so that millions of hard-working Americans — such as police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers and other vital contributors to society — will be able to find affordable homes near the places where they work.

Essential to this effort, Jackson said, is transforming urban centers into vibrant communities in order to help cities to thrive and encourage citizens to live in downtown areas.

To further boost housing opportunities, he also championed the Administration’s FHA single-family zero downpayment mortgage insurance program. HUD estimates that 140,000 families would be able to achieve homeownership if this proposal is enacted.

“I truly believe it is in our best interests to push the zero downpayment program. If we make it work, there will be very little default. If we can provide opportunities for people to own their homes, they will keep those homes,” he said.

In a related area, Jackson lauded HUD’s partnership with the NAHB Research Center on the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) program, a public-private initiative that seeks to speed the creation and widespread use of advanced technologies to radically improve the quality, durability, energy efficiency, environmental performance and affordability of America's housing.

When surveying the damage from this year’s hurricane season in Florida and Alabama, Jackson observed that most of the PATH homes were relatively unscathed while others suffered serious damage or were destroyed. “Homes built under the high PATH standards showed excellent results,” he said.

Photo by Herman Farrer

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