WASHINGTON -- House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez is pushing Congress to pass legislation early next year that would double the amount of federal aid the HOME housing affordability program can receive in 1993.
Gonzalez, D-Tex., said he wants Congress to allocated $2.1 billion to HOME, the amount authorized earlier this year by his panel and the Senate Banking Committee, both of which handle housing legislation.
The HOME program is scheduled to receive only $1 billion next year, because that is the amount Congress decided to allocate in passing the housing appropriations bill.
"In the interest of putting additional funds into existing programs that are ready to go, I would ask that the leadership support efforts for a supplemental appropriation as soon as the Congress convenes to cover the gap between authorization and appropriation," Gonzalez said in a letter this week to House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash.
Gonzalez's letter, sent six days after Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas was elected President, indicates that the legislator hopes the added funds will be included in the Clinton administration's plan to revitalize the economy.
"I believe [the additional appropriation] will provide a legislative program that can be enacted quickly and will provide a jump start to the economy as well as providing for long-term growth, in keeping with the approaches which have been expressed by President-elect Clinton," Gonzalez said in his letter.
John C. Murphy, executive director of the Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies, said there may be enough support to pass such a bill early next year.
"I think [Gonzalez] speaks a sentiment that is clearly there to use existing programs" to foster economic growth and spur housing construction, Murphy said. Gonzalez's letter, he added, "is a signal something good could happen next year."
But other lobbyists said t hey did not see how the Clinton administration and Congress would be able to find the additional money in the budget that Gonzalez is asking them to spend. Gonzalez's request covers a range of other housing programs in addition to HOME, and would mean added federal spending of $5.4 billion.
"It ain't gonna happen," said a municipal lobbyist who asked not to be identified. "There's no money We're broke."
Another lobbyist said he expects President-elect Clinton to be careful not to try to satisfy too many constituencies.
"He's going to say no to almost everybody, because if he says yes to housing, which is clearly not his number-one priority, he'll end up having to spend tremendous sums of money for many constituencies," said the lobbyist. "My sense is that deficit spending is not their top priority, particularly in light of [Ross] Perot's strong showing and continued involvement."
The HOME program requires the federal government to match contributions that state and local governments make to low-income rental and home-ownership projects.
The $1 billion 1993 appropriations level is a decrease from the $1.5 billion Congress allocated to the program for this year. For 1993, Senate appropriators had proposed $1.5 billion, while the House proposal was $600 million. The final figure resulted from their compromise agreement.
Housing lobbyists had said they wanted to see the program receive $3 billion in 1993, but believed the $1 billion was a good figure given the budget constraints under which Congress has been operating.