<p>WASHINGTON-Following President George W. Bush’s announcement last week to help increase minority homeownership, NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar called it a “tremendous opportunity for America’s credit unions.” Earlier Bush announced an initiative to increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million before the end of the decade. Dollar then issued a statement that NCUA considers the issue a priority as part of “Access Across America.” “Rising to meet the President’s `America’s Homeownership Challenge’ is a responsibility for all of us,” Dollar said, “especially since credit unions have long proven to be among the most innovative financial institutions to serve these minority families and communities.” In his announcement, he also stated that he believes there are still untapped opportunities for partnering credit unions with housing organizations to come from this latest administration initiative. As an ongoing part of its Access Across America initiative, NCUA plans to host a forum in El Paso, Texas this fall to address financial challenges for minorities. Dollar cited a new report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), that showed many obstacles remain for minority families trying to buy a home, including: lack of inventory of affordable single-family housing available for sale in areas comprised mainly of minorities; need for down payment assistance; lack of access to affordable mortgage credit; lack of understanding of the homebuying process; weak credit histories; lack of information about available homeownership programs in the community; and; language or cultural barriers. President Bush’s proposal would provide down payment assistance, increase availability of affordable homes, increase support for self-help homeownership programs, and simplifying the home buying process and increasing education. A recent HUD report indicates that while the overall homeownership rate has reached an all time high of nearly 68%, the statistics show a clear homeownership gap. While slight progress was made during the 1990s, the gap is still large. The government-sponsored enterprises, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have pledged $440 billion to target specifically toward minorities, as well as other groups.</p>