As the War on Terror was underway, President Bush traveled to Atlanta in June 2002 and promoted homeownership for minorities:
But my attitude is, if somebody can’t find work and they want to work, we’ve got to continue to work on expanding the job base. And part of economic security is owning your own home. (Applause.) Part of being a secure America is to encourage homeownership. So somebody can say, this is my home, welcome to my home.
Now, we’ve got a problem here in America that we have to address. Too many American families, too many minorities do not own a home. There is a home ownership gap in America. The difference between Anglo America and African American and Hispanic home ownership is too big. (Applause.) And we’ve got to focus the attention on this nation to address this.
And it starts with setting a goal. And so by the year 2010, we must increase minority home owners by at least 5.5 million. In order to close the homeownership gap, we’ve got to set a big goal for America, and focus our attention and resources on that goal. (Applause.)…
I want to go back to where I started. I believe out of the evil done to America will come incredible good. I believe that as sure as I’m standing here. I believe we can achieve peace. I believe that we can address hopelessness and despair where hopelessness and despair exist. And listen, I understand that in this great country, there are too many people who say, this American Dream, what does that mean; my eyes are shut to the American Dream, I don’t see the dream. And we’d better make sure, for the good of the country, that the dream is vibrant and alive.
It starts with having great education systems for every single child. (Applause.) It means that we unleash the faith-based programs to help change people’s hearts, which will help change their lives. (Applause.) It means we use the mighty muscle of the federal government in combination with state and local governments to encourage owning your own home. That’s what that means. And it means — it means that each of us, each of us, have a responsibility in the great country to put something greater than ourselves — to promote something greater than ourselves.
These are not unusual sentiments for an American president. Even as danger lurks in the larger world (now the threat of terrorism rather than the threat of communism), American residents need to be able to participate in the American dream. This dream includes at least a few factors including good jobs and schools but is anchored in owning a home. Bush adds to these broad aspirations in this speech by noting that minorities have lower homeownership rates (this is still the case today) and the government and American society should be committed to helping them join white Americans in owning homes.
On one hand, this is a laudable goal that I suspect many would still support today: minorities should be able to buy homes in good neighborhoods. On the other hand, setting such goals is now viewed as helping to contribute to the economic crisis of the late 2000s. President Bush discusses a variety of means to push homeownership – government programs, community associations, faith-based groups – but we know at least part of this was accomplished through subprime and other loans that produced a facade of increasing homeownership without much substance behind it.
For the future, what is a sustainable path that truly gives minorities opportunities to own a home for the long-term? This might require jettisoning the idea that a home should be an economic investment. It may mean more operating outside of the free market to provide good housing.