THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE POOL
The South Lawn
11:20 A.M. EDT
Q Mr. President, don't you think the Republicans will say that reducing the FHA closing costs is just an election-year gimmick?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know what they'll say. But we've been working on this for quite some time now, and it's a part of an ongoing strategy. And we started in 1993 by driving the interest rates down, and in that year alone, something like 5.5 million people refinanced their home mortgages.
So many American middle class working people, starting with young people like the Kastens, have all their savings in a home. And we just feel that anything we can do to facilitate people buying their own homes and to speed the process along will increase savings, increase security and support families.
So that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to get -- we have, I think, about 3.7 million new home owners since I became President, and we're working on a target of eight million by the year 2000. If we can get to eight million, then we'll have home ownership at two-thirds of the American people; it will be the highest it's ever been in American history. That's what we're trying to do.
SECRETARY CISNEROS: Mr. President, if I may just add to that -- this is the culmination of a presidential directive to deal with the barriers of home ownership. And most surveys tell us the principal barrier, Mr. President, is the front-end cost. The average closing cost on a house are about $4,400. We made a commitment a year and a half ago to reduce that by a quarter -- $1,000. This announcement the President makes today is the capstone of reducing it by $1,000.
The first step was to reduce it by $600 when we reduced FHA premiums earlier in the term. Then another $200, for $800, by cutting time -- and time is money in purchasing a home. And today is worth about $200 more, so that's $1,000 less, which for a lot of people is the difference between actually being able to get into a home, or not.
So this is the culmination of a directive that's been a long time in the works.
Q Mr. President, does the Senate vote today on the balanced budget amendment give Senator Dole ammunition against you? Are you standing in the way of a balanced budget?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Look at what Senator Exon said, probably the strongest balanced budget advocate over a longer period of time than anybody in the Senate, of either party. And he's actually changing his vote, as I understand it, today because he doesn't want the gimmick of saying we're going to have a balanced budget amendment which will take forever and a day to take impact, and get in the way of the fact that there are now -- there are on the table, there's a Republican plan and my plan that existed when they walked away from the negotiations several months ago. Both of them would balance the budget by 2002; both of them have savings in common to do it.
And I would say again, whatever happens in that vote today -- and the President doesn't sign or veto amendments -- whatever happens in that vote today, the Congress ought to come back, pass the savings we have in common, give the American people a balanced budget, take the differences between them and then take that to the voters in November. Let the voters resolve the differences; let us do what we have in common. That's the way our system is supposed to work. Representative government is supposed to take what we have in common and make progress and let the voters resolve the differences. That's how the system is supposed to work.
So I would say that however this vote comes out, it's not an excuse not to go on and balance the budget. If we did that, we'd get interest rates down some more and we'd have more people, like the Kastens buying homes next year.
Q When are you going to buy a home? How come you don't get one?
THE PRESIDENT: You know how much my first home cost? About $20,500 -- 1,000 square feet, 1,100 square feet. Same sort of deal.
Q Time to get a new one, isn't it?
THE PRESIDENT: I hope not. (Laughter.) I hope I've got a little time on that. (Laughter.)
END 11:26 A.M. EDT