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A dream worth preserving: helping Americans buy and keep their homes

Last year, 1.5 million American families faced foreclosure on their homes, and we’re on our way to 2.5 million more foreclosures this year. Economists warn that the housing crisis will extend well into 2010, and the next president and Congress must grapple with the economic and political consequences.

As Republican delegates gather here in September to hammer out a platform and nominate Sen. John McCain for president, we urge them to consider the benefits to our communities and nation of helping Americans buy homes, and stay in them. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that for every dollar spent on creating more affordable housing, at least $10 are returned in the form of job creation, tax contributions, new businesses and access to higher education, among other benefits.

So, we should continue to help people like True Vang, 42, a widowed mother of four who finally was able to buy a home two months ago on St. Paul’s East Side after a frustrating yearlong search. Vang’s dilemma is all too common today, as lenders tighten qualifying standards for loans and mortgages, even as home values plummet.

Vang got help in her own community, thanks to a federal program that both Republicans and Democrats have supported. A local nonprofit housing organization, Community Neighborhood Housing Services (CNHS), provided Vang with workshops on budgeting and savings, and helped her with a down payment. Six months after contacting CNHS, Vang bought her dream home.

Organizations like CNHS, part of the national NeighborWorks network, exist because our nation has been committed to promoting homeownership. NeighborWorks America is a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization with a network of more than 230 community nonprofits offering education and counseling on purchasing, refinancing and owning a home that is affordable.

Thanks to legislation signed July 29, which provides money for community groups like CNHS to help counsel homeowners, buy and rehabilitate homes, and finance affordable housing, many more families like the Vangs can purchase and remain in homes.

Vang says she is thankful everyday that she can now raise her children in a home environment that supports her independence and her financial future. Although she has lived in the United States for 21 years, only now does she feel that she has arrived.

This is a dream worth preserving — for the Vang family and millions of others who are willing to work hard to buy and keep their homes — and we shouldn’t abandon incentives to help these families. With responsible and safe lending, we can reaffirm our national commitment to this essential slice of the American Dream while addressing the housing crisis, block by block and one family at a time.

Kenneth D. Wade is president and CEO of NeighborWorks America. Cynthia Paulson is the executive director of Community Neighborhood Housing Services in St. Paul.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 08/29/2008 - 09:24 pm.

    Here are the realities:

    Our banking system allowed people who had no business qualifying for a home in the first place get into one. A lot of mortgage bankers, real estate agents, closers, appraisers, etc. all collected their fees and moved onto the next customer.

    Our financial system allowed these loans to get sold, resold, and then packaged into bonds that were sold.

    People who *should* have known that buying a $300,000 home with no money down, spotty income, etc. did anyway.

    People who already had one mortgage were given the opportunity to use their homes as ATMs, even though the “increase” in market value was a paper figure only. Yes, they helped fuel the economy by purchasing goods and services that they probably otherwise could not have been able to afford.

    We have a regulatory and central banking system that should have had the brains to recognize early on what was happening and take steps to keep things under control. They chose instead to let the party go on. Welcome to the hangover.

    There is plenty of blame to go around on this one, but the end results are affecting all of us.

    I am all for people getting into their own home, so long as they have the means with which to pay for it.

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