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WASHINGTON, DC-A national housing bubble? What national housing bubble? Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson keynoted the 39th annual Journalism Conference here last night with a speech that combined a bit of Bush Administration flag-waving with projections on homeownership and plans for streamlining HUD.

Painting a broad-stroke picture of the national housing market, Jackson denied the existence of a national bubble, pointing out that it’s a trend endemic largely to the coasts. By comparison, he pointed out, in markets such as the Midwest and the Southwest, “people can still find affordable housing.” Yet in those regions where homes prices continue to spiral out of reach, buyers should expect more of the same for a minimum of five more years.

To the charge that homelessness had increased during the first years of the Bush Administration–a question raised during the post-speech Q&A, Jackson filed a categorical denial. Reminding the crowd that the president had made a State-of-the-Union pledge to increase the number of affordable homes by seven million, Jackson stated that, through the extension of affordable-housing tax credits, they were on their way to achieving that goal. He gave no more specifics.

He also restated his commitment to making HUD more streamlined and user-friendly, and he cited a new program–set to roll out in the next few days–to hit that goal. A low-down-payment mortgage program through FHA will include the cost of the home and “limited repairs from $5,000 to $15,000,” he stated. “The program will be easier to administer and ensure faster loan approval.”

“Housing is the backbone of the economy,” Jackson said, “and we’re poised for another year of strong growth. The federal government has to be sensitive to the needs of those who want to be part of the homeownership society.”

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