WASHINGTON - The head of the Federal Housing Administration, Nicolas Retsinas, offered a sobering assessment last week of the prospects for housing legislation next year and for proposals to ease curbs on tax-exempt bonds.

Retsinas had two messages for the local housing agency directors he spoke to in New York. First, Congress isn't going to be amenable to developing new housing programs until the FHA cleans up its mess. The mess is the overwhelming number of federally insured loans the agency is stuck with because of past program failures.

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