Remarks on Signing the National Housing Week Proclamation

October 19, 1982

The President. I thank you all for being with us for the signing of the proclamation designating the week of October 24 to 31 as National Housing Week.

These are days of new hope for housing -- hope for millions of families that dream of owning homes, and hope for millions who make their livelihoods from building them. As today's housing starts report shows, the solid progress against the record inflation and interest rates we inherited is sparking a rebound in this bedrock industry, a rebound that will benefit the entire economy. We still have a long way to go and housing is still hurting, but confidence is returning and America is on the move again.

Americans by a wide margin feel that homeownership is a cherished tradition that binds families, builds financial security, and strengthens communities and economic growth. The long years of government borrowing and spending beyond its means had overwhelmed us by the late seventies, and that dream of homeownership became a cruel hoax as the housing industry plunged into the worst depression since the thirties, provoking widespread suffering amongst quite a few of our citizens.

From the moment that we arrived in office, less than 2 years ago, our administration was working to cure this terrible economic disease. We insisted on attacking the root causes, not just legislating by quick fix, and this is the only way to end the deeply embedded, high-inflation philosophy which inflicted so much harm on housing.

We are beginning to succeed. The interest rates are dropping sharply, housing starts are rebounding, and our economic recovery program that began in October of 1981, I think is taking hold. It's no coincidence that the conventional long-term home mortgage rates peaked at 18\3/4\ percent the month before that program began. Long-term mortgage rates had fallen by a nationwide average to 13.38 by the week ending October 15th, last Saturday. Recent mortgage rate declines have made homeownership possible again for over a million families. And we saw today that the housing starts were 1,146,000 in September, and that's up 14.6 percent from August and up almost 22 percent from a year ago when the program began.

And the best news in today's report is that of the permits, which increased sharply -- September, up 17 percent. A good share of the increase is single-family housing starts. And this increase in permits, combined with the substantial decline in mortgage rates over the past several weeks, makes the resurgence of housing activity in coming months more and more likely.

As we continue to make progress in bringing the long-term inflation and interest rates down, let's learn [from] our mistakes of the past and strengthen our determination not to repeat them. And we reaffirm today one of the most treasured rights that was won by the Founding Fathers -- the right to own and hold property. For most Americans, that right embodied homeownership.

As we celebrate National Housing Week, let's remember we're also celebrating our industrial life. The steel we produce, the timber we harvest, the rock we quarry have an important place in the American home. The homes we live in today are testimony to the labor of men and women across this country. Housing is an industry in transition, regaining strength and the ability to produce a product the average working family wants and will be able to afford once again. This is welcome news, for homeownership is not just a symbol, it represents the American way of life. It's the key to advancement and to a better future for all of us. And as I said last night, a resurging housing industry can help to lead us out of the recession.

To reaffirm our commitment to restore the American dream, I am pleased to sign the proclamation designating October 24 to 31 as National Housing Week.

[At this point, the President signed the proclamation.]

Reporter. Mr. President, the analysts have attributed this upsurge in housing starts to federally subsidized housing. Is your administration claiming credit for the new housing starts after you vetoed the Federal housing subsidy bill?

The President. Well, I usually do not take questions at a photo opportunity, but I will just remark about this one.

We had the support of many in the housing industry in vetoing that, because it was not going to be something of a real increase, the increase that we needed. And it was just going to further set us back with regard to increased government spending, without doing the job that we see now is being done by sticking to the course of our economic recovery program.

Note: The President spoke at 3:30 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Participants in the ceremony included Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel R. Pierce, Jr., and several housing industry officials. Members of the press also attended.