WASHINGTON, March 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- National Urban League
President Marc Morial today unveiled a six-point Homebuyer's Bill of Rights
to boost homeownership in the United States, especially among African
"Greater homeownership means greater personal wealth, which, in turn,
means greater economic empowerment, the civil right of the 21st Century,"
Morial said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "It
is also helpful in closing the gap that exists between blacks and whites in
the United States."
In 2004, African-American homeownership hit a historic high -- nearly
50 percent, compared to 76 percent of white Americans, slipping to 47.9
percent in 2006, thanks in part to increased foreclosures that are
threatening decades of progress.
Through six major policy recommendations, the National Urban League
Homebuyer's Bill Of Rights is designed to minimize four major obstacles
standing in the way of more Americans owning their own homes: 1) lack of
net savings for downpayments and closing costs; 2) lack of information on
how to shop for homes and apply for loans; 3) lack of quality affordable
units in livable locations; and 4) lack of consumer protection.
"It is not enough to put more Americans into their own homes if we fail
to arm them with the tools needed to sustain homeownership. Far too many
first- time homebuyers with limited financial experience have fallen into
the trap of predatory lending where unscrupulous mortgage brokers steer
them into unsuitable and exploitive mortgage products and turn their
American Dream into the American Nightmare. The National Urban League
Homebuyer's Bill of Rights seeks to reverse and eliminate this trend."
National Urban League Homebuyer's Bill Of Rights
1. The Right to Save for Homeownership Tax-Free
Recommendation -- Create Individual Development Accounts for
Homeownership administered by employers as matched savings plans for
the future purchase of a home.
-- Similar to 529 plans, the IDA for Homeownership would be a tax-
advantaged investment vehicle designed to encourage saving for the
future home purchase expenses of a designated beneficiary.
2. The Right to High-Quality Homeownership Education
Recommendation -- Redesign of an industry-wide system that integrates
pre- and post-purchase homeownership education and counseling; and
expansion of HUD's budget for housing counseling from $42 million to
$80 million in FY 08.
-- HUD funding does not cover all costs of homeownership education
and counseling and limits non-profits' ability to collect fees for
their services. The private sector contributes only a small share
of funding to homeownership education and counseling efforts, and
even if the industry's (banks) support matched HUD's, non-profit
education and counseling programs would be grossly under-funded if
services were expanded to include a larger share of first-time
3. The Right to Truth and Transparency in Credit Reporting
Recommendation -- Demystify the credit reporting system through
creation of a public education and awareness campaign about credit
scoring and its impact on wealth creation, and establishment of a
penalty structure for credit reporting bureaus that maintain
inaccurate client files.
-- In the United States, once every 12 months, each person is
entitled to one free credit report from each of the three
nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian
and TransUnion. Under fear of penalty, credit reporting agencies
should be required to collect, maintain, and report data that is
accurate, relevant, and up-to-date.
-- The Government could offer a free publication called Understanding
Your Credit Report and Credit Score. This publication would
provide sample credit report and credit score documents with
explanations of the notations and codes that are used. It would
also contain general information on how to build or improve credit
history, and how to check for signs that identity theft has
occurred. The publication could be made available online.
4. The Right to Production of Affordable Housing for Working Families
Recommendation -- Cities and other municipalities should through
zoning and tax incentives require that at least 30% of all new market-
rate construction be made available for purchase and rental by
households comprising the locality's working families.
-- Workforce housing includes single-family homes, townhouses,
condominiums, starter homes, and apartments that are affordable to
an area's workers such as: teachers, firefighters, municipal
employees and the other workers who provide essential services in
communities -- policing, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail
-- A program that once held great promise in this regard -- HOPE VI
is broken and should be re-thought and re-built. With a vague and
changing mandate, HOPE VI strayed from its initial intent of
rehabilitating 6% of the nation's public housing stock; instead,
it has funded the demolition of housing and displaced many
thousands of poor families to meet the demands of private
-- New York City provides an innovative example of one such local
approach to the issue. Under their current program, known as "421-
a", developers of new buildings in most neighborhoods are eligible
for a 10- to 15-year exemption from the increase in real estate
taxes resulting from the work. Developers do not receive a tax
break unless 30 percent of all the units are affordable to
families earning no more that 50 percent of the median income for
the area, or about $35,000 for a family of four.
5. The Right to be Free from Predatory Lending
Recommendation -- Elimination of incentives for lenders to make
predatory loans; a fair, competitive market that responsibly provides
credit to consumers; access to justice for families caught in abusive
loans; and the preservation of essential federal and state consumer
-- During recent years, responsible mortgage lenders and consumer
advocates have recognized the urgent need to curb abusive lending
practices that harm homebuyers and homeowners. NUL supports
legislation that supplements existing law by promoting these basic
objectives. NUL supports the "Prohibit Predatory Lending Act"
(Miller-Watt-Frank) HR 1182.
6. The Right to Aggressive Enforcement of Fair Housing Laws
Recommendation -- Create a HUD Task Force to vigorously investigate
and prosecute violations of fair-housing laws and authorize
congressional oversight hearings to hold HUD accountable.
-- In a multiyear study using homebuyer "tests" funded by HUD and
completed in 2005, the National Fair Housing Alliance found that
potential homebuyers were steered to white or minority
neighborhoods 87% of the time.
-- The Task Force would investigate and process mortgage lending
complaints, including such actions as inappropriate steering to
sub-prime loans, stricter qualification standards for minority
borrowers and higher rates and/or conditions for minority
National Urban League (http://www.nul.org) Established in 1910, The
Urban League is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement
devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social
mainstream. Today, the National Urban League (http://www.nul.org),
headquartered in New York City, spearheads the non-partisan efforts of its
local affiliates. There are over 100 local affiliates of the National Urban
League located in 36 states and the District of Columbia providing direct
services like job training, home ownership and educational assistance to
millions of people nationwide along with extensive advocacy and research.
SOURCE National Urban League