Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for conducting this hearing today to consideration the nomination of Mel Martinez as the next U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Mr. Martinez's commitment to housing and community development has created a network of people, not only in Orange County, but nationwide that is excited and knowledgeable about these public policy issues. This excitement and knowledge has encouraged community leaders nationwide to find solutions to their housing and community development needs.
Homeownership is often portrayed as an integral part of the "American dream." Raising the home ownership rate is the goal and desire of most community leaders and social activists in this country. As an economic indicator, the housing market component impacts many sectors of the economy. For example, wages and tax revenues are generated by the creation of jobs from housing construction. Homeownership can improve the economy by making citizens self-sufficient and more stable. Homeownership rates have increased nationally over the past couple of years. Industry sources predict the market to continue to grow, though slowed somewhat by decreased demand. Increases in housing sales coupled with the high rate of homeownership point to a healthy outlook for the United States housing industry.
In my home state of Wyoming, seventy percent of the population in 1998 owned homes, ranking Wyoming 22nd among the 50 states. Nevertheless, rural states need better assistance in establishing homeownership opportunities for their constituents. Some states have begun these reforms on their own admission. Because Wyoming does not have one single state housing agency, Wyomingites have mobilized their initiatives in order to ensure greater homeownership in my state. For example, HUD, the Wyoming Community Development Association, Habitat for Humanity, Housing Partners Incorporated, Fannie Mae, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have come together to create an Indian Housing Coordinating Committee in order to facilitate better access to affordable housing for the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes on the Wind River Reservation. Mr. Martinez's confirmation as HUD Secretary would ensure these consumers, organizations, and manufacturers alike would enjoy reforms that call for an increase of safe and affordable housing nationwide, especially for the more rural areas of our country like Wyoming.
In closing, I support the confirmation of Mel Martinez as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Thank you, Mr. Martinez, for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with us and I definitely look forward to further discussing housing and community development issues with you and your staff in the months to come.