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If you were thinking about buying a home, Mayor Anthony A. Williams probably wouldn’t be the first guy you’d look to for advice. Now in his fifth year in office, Williamswho currently lives in a Foggy Bottom apartment with his wife, Diane Simmons Williamshas yet to place a down payment on a property in the District. Nevertheless, in TV ads this month promoting the Fannie Mae Foundation’s Washington D.C. Home-Buying Fair, a relaxed Williams, radiating homeownerliness as he sits on a porch of unknown provenance, offers this counsel: “[W]hen you own a home, our community is stronger.”
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Fannie Mae has been using mayoral footage since Williams’ first term. René Carter, the foundation’s public-affairs director, declines to comment on whether the mayor’s reluctance to buy has made his pro-homeownership pitch ring hollow. She does say that Williams was tabbed in an attempt to raise the fair’s profile among first-time homebuyers. “For our purposes, the mayor was a good partner,” Carter says. “Our main concern was what he’s done to increase homeownership in the region.”
Williams spokesperson Tony Bullock says that in no way is the mayor’s pitchmanship ironic. “In some ways, he can relate directly to the experience that many people are havingprecisely the target audience that Fannie Mae is looking for,” says Bullock, explaining that the Williams’ house search, which has focused on Ledroit Park, has been a grueling process.
The one difference, Bullock says: “In some respects, I don’t think he would qualify for a Fannie Mae loan due to income.”
Bullock says the mayor wasn’t able to attend July 19’s home-buying fair on account of his required attendance at a National League of Cities meeting in New Haven, Conn. If Williams had been able to attend, he could have entered the Fannie Mae essay contest (500 words maximum): “What owning a home means to me.” With a victory in the contest, the Williams family would have received $2,000 credit toward closing costs on any home purchase.
(The mayor’s house-peddling isn’t the only double-take-worthy note in the foundation’s advertising oeuvre. A Spanish-language spot features suspiciously suburban-looking houses with lawns and garages. Mary Ann Klimas, director of advertising for Fannie Mae, says the images come from the New York metropolitan area. “You try to show housing that could be in a particular area,” she says.) Josh Levin