The FHA mortgage insurance program came under fire Wednesday from community activists and government watchdogs who questioned whether the Department of Housing and Urban Development is capable of running it.

The program is in the spotlight as the Clinton administration lobbies Congress to substantially expand the FHA even as it downsizes HUD's staff.

Judy England-Joseph of the General Accounting Office said at a hearing before the housing subcommittee of the House Banking Committee that her team recently visited 24 houses that HUD has foreclosed on, and found many littered with debris and in disrepair.

HUD Inspector General Susan Gaffney repeated her warnings that the department and the single-family FHA program have lost vital expertise in the rush to reduce HUD's staff.

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