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A Home for the Brave – an Interview with Dr. Ben Carson and Brian D. Montgomery.

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As a cornerstone of the American Dream, homeownership means even more to people in these uncertain times. I recently had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ben Carson, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Brian D. Montgomery, Assistant Secretary for Housing – Federal Housing Commissioner, about the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on homeownership and the housing market.  Here are some of the key takeaways:

Health and Housing Go Hand-in-Hand

Having a place that you can call your own and go to be supported is priceless. Homeownership gives peace of mind and allows people to grow and to plan. If you’re just trying to survive, that growth and planning can’t happen. Homeownership is also the number one mechanism of wealth accumulation in this country. For example, the average renter has a net worth of $5,000. The average homeowner, on the other hand, has a net worth of $200,000 – a 40-fold difference. Of course, as we learned from the housing crisis, homeownership must be sustainable once you have it.

The Housing Market is Strong, Even in the Midst of Crisis

Fortunately, we are in a radically different place going into this situation than we were during the mortgage crisis. February was the best month in more than 10 years for single-family housing. March has seen a little impact, down 4.4%, but we must remember that that’s 4.4% based on a preceding record-breaking month. Year over year, the market is still up approximately 13.4% on new home sales.

Right now, people might not be viewing homes because of social distancing, but virtual tours will see a big increase. This is a blip and it will pass. The fundamentals remain the same and are still strong. Once this is over, there will continue to be improvements in the market.

We’re All in This Together

During the 2008 downturn, approximately 50% of people who lost their jobs did not contact their mortgage lender because they were embarrassed. No one should feel this way. This is a shared problem — your neighbor may look like they’re very prosperous but, in reality, they are probably thinking the same as you. Steps have been taken regarding bank cooperation and forbearance, so do not hesitate to contact your lender if you think you’re going to miss a payment or get behind.

We Are Innovative and Entrepreneurial

Despite this crisis, there is still an ongoing housing shortage impacting the ability of first-time buyers and renters to get a home. To stimulate new housing growth and meet the needs of pent-up demand, talks with local and state officials have begun and good progress is being made to remove some of the regulatory barriers preventing the building of affordable housing. There have also been innovative and entrepreneurial advances with manufactured housing, such as modular and 3D printable homes. Less expensive and quicker to assemble, these could provide both rural and urban solutions.

Be Encouraged

In these uncertain and anxious times, we already have the words of encouragement that we need in our national anthem. We live in “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” As Dr. Carson said, “You can’t be free unless you’re brave. It’s on every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet that says, ‘In God we trust.’” He went on to say that it doesn’t matter what your faith is. Strive to love your fellow man, care about your neighbor, develop your talents to the utmost and become valuable to the people around you. These are the values and principles that govern your life. That’s who we are. If we do that, there is no issue that can conquer us as a people.

Listen to the latest episode of It’s a Good Life, “A Home for the Brave — an Interview with Dr. Ben Carson and Brian D. Montgomery,” to hear more.   


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