Rep. Cleaver urges HUD to combat inequality by assisting first-time home buyers

United States Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO)


In a recent release from United States Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Cleaver led a group of 16 lawmakers in calling for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reconsider proposed actions related to down payment assistance programs that could have severe consequences for low to moderate-income and minority Americans.

In a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the lawmakers wrote:

“Homeownership is a clear, critical factor in narrowing the racial and wealth divide in our country. For low- to moderate-income, first-time home buyers, saving for a down payment can take many years, particularly for millennial homebuyers burdened with student debt. Properly designed and managed down payment assistance programs can safely assist first-time homebuyers in becoming a homeowner, enabling them to more quickly accumulate wealth by building equity in their home.”

The letter comes in response to HUD’s attempts to implement regulations that would significantly curtail down payment assistance from most government entities. Although the regulations were successfully challenged in court last year, HUD has indicated it will propose new actions to limit down payment assistance from government entities in the near future.

“As someone who spent some of my childhood in public housing, I have to say what this administration has proposed in regards to affordable housing is downright shameful,” said Congressman Cleaver. “Just this week, the administration announced proposals to roll back critical civil rights protections to combat segregation in federal housing. Soon, we expect, the administration will propose new rules to limit down payment assistance programs that are pivotal in the fight against historic and growing economic inequality. When the President asks: what do African Americans and minorities have to lose? How about affordable, quality housing and a shot at the American dream.”

The equity working families acquire through homeownership is the greatest contribution to wealth accumulation, for themselves and for the next generation to inherit. The net worth of a homeowner is 36 times that of the average renter—more than $230,000 to just $5,200. Unfortunately, many minorities in the United States have less opportunity to accumulate wealth due to an inability to afford a down payment to buy a home. This has led to the gap in black and white homeownership in the United States to actually widen since 1960, further exacerbating our nation’s racial and wealth inequalities. Sadly, instead of proposals that would expand opportunities to minorities and low to moderate-income Americans, the current administration has sought to dramatically curtail down payment assistance programs and roll back civil rights protections in federal housing.

Representatives who signed on to Cleaver’s letter include Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Al Lawson, Jr. (D-FL), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Bobby Rush (D-IL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).

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