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Public Statements

Helping Hands for Homeownership Act of 2004

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


HELPING HANDS FOR HOMEOWNERSHIP ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - June 21, 2004)

Mr. GREEN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 4363) to facilitate self-help housing homeownership opportunities, as amended.

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Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I would like to, first of all, congratulate the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Green) and the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Ford) for bringing forth this legislation, and for really identifying the need for a correction in this very impactful portion of our statute.

As the gentleman had said, there was a recent interpretation of a statute which simply makes achieving the dream of home ownership that much more unattainable, and we are here today to try and make that correction so we can continue as the gentlemen from Massachusetts and Wisconsin have said, making the dream of home ownership that much more attainable.

Many of us have worked on houses which have been built under this program. The gentleman mentions Habitat for Humanity. I think all of us have done that.

Recently, 2 weeks ago, I did participate in the construction of a house with Habitat and with the Richmond Association of Realtors; and in that project, I think the house was completed in 4 days. So we can see the problem: if we require an individual to exhort 200 hours, let us say, of his own sweat equity and try and squeeze that into 4 days during the construction period, it is just not going to work.

So a looser or more flexible interpretation of this, which does not take away from the volunteer requirement of the requisite number of hours, I think accomplishes two things. One, it allows an individual to continue to benefit from the SHOP program; but it also encourages volunteerism and makes that volunteerism more workable to be able to fit into that homeowner's work schedule. Many of the homeowners are single parents, obviously with the parental obligations that come with that role as well.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am here to congratulate and endorse this legislation and urge its passage.

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Mr. OSBORNE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4363, the Helping Hands for Homeownership Act.

I am pleased to be a cosponsor of this very important legislation.

The legislation corrects an interpretation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Fiscal Year 2004 which prevents families who received Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program funds from fulfilling their "sweat equity" requirement by working on other program homes.

The legislation corrects this interpretation by HUD and clarifies Congress' intent to permit organizations like Habitat for Humanity to allow their homeowners to work on other homes to fulfill their sweat equity requirements.

Each Habitat for Humanity Chapter has established its own requirement for sweat equity hours.

The Habitat for Humanity chapter in Grand Island, Nebraska, requires their homeowners to put in 500 hours of sweat equity.

Mr. Speaker, there have been several instances where the homeowners have put most of their sweat equity into other Habitat for Humanity Homes to fulfill the 500 hour requirement.

I would like to give you two examples.

One Habitat family's home was primarily built by a local high school as learning project.

The family did put sweat equity hours into their home, but had to put the additional required hours into other Habitat homes to complete their sweat equity.

Under this interpretation by HUD, the family would not have been allowed to live in this home since they would not have been able to complete the 500 hours of sweat equity that was required.

Another example from the same chapter was of a family who had completed most of their sweat equity hours in other Habitat homes in the community before construction was to begin on their home.

Before construction was to begin on their home, another Habitat home that had been completed earlier became available when a Habitat family moved out of town, allowing this family an opportunity to purchase the home and move in.

Had this interpretation by HUD been in place, the family would not have been allowed to move into this home because they had not put 500 hours of sweat equity into this Habitat home.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Mr. GREEN for introducing this important legislation.

I would also like to thank Chairman OXLEY and Ranking Member FRANK FOR including an amendment to this legislation that will change the name of the USDA Section 502 Single Family Housing Loan Guarantee Program to the DOUG BEREUTER Section 502 Single Family Housing Loan Guarantee Program.

My colleague, Mr. BEREUTER, was the legislative author of this very important program which was enacted on November 28, 1990.

Since 1990, the program has assisted low- to moderate-income borrowers in obtaining over 316,000 single-family home loans in rural and non-metropolitan communities.

Mr. BEREUTER will be retiring from the House at the end of August, 2004, and this is an appropriate way to thank Mr. BEREUTER for all of his hard work on this essential program that has helped thousands of families become homeowners in rural and non-metropolitan areas.

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4363: Helping Hands for Homeownership Act of 2004, which amends the housing opportunity program extension act of 1996 to permit a homeowner under the sweat equity model program to perform required construction time on more than one dwelling.

The "Helping Hands for Homeownership Act of 2004" (H.R. 4363) will permit prospective homebuyers to qualify for "sweat equity" credit when they work on multiple houses rather than exclusively on their own home. This important change will enable Americans to gain valuable labor skills, foster stronger communities, and make more Americans homeowners by making home ownership more accessible.

Sweat equity programs allows families and individuals to purchase a home in return for their labor. These programs significantly reduce construction and rehabilitation costs, as well as financial contributions.

As the Housing Opportunity Program Extension Act currently stands, individuals participating in sweat equity programs are permitted to work on only one dwelling to perform required construction time. With this act, we will extend the opportunity for individuals to work on multiple dwellings, which will provide Americans with greater access to home ownership.

In a country where a home valued at more than $170,000.00 is considered affordable, we must take measures to make home ownership more realistic for the average American. What better way to build community than to provide financial incentives to perform required construction time on more than one dwelling?

It is our responsibility to make sure that our children are not exposed to increased risk of diseases like asthma because of the lack of affordable, decent housing. We have the opportunity to extend the opportunity for success, community and home ownership by enabling those participating in sweat equity programs to work on more than one dwelling.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to urge my colleagues to support a H.R. 4363, a bill that actually empowers individuals to become home owners, builds communities, and provides citizens with valuable skill sets. Affordable and decent housing should be a right in this country, and providing citizens with more accessibility to home ownership is our duty.

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