What legislation could draw support from both President Clinton and Rep. Rick Lazio, the New York Republican running for the Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton?

Both strongly support HR 4923, the Community Renewal and New Markets Act, which passed the House 394-to-27 on July 25.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert says he and the President "put politics aside and pushed forward the bill," which Rep. Hastert said "will help build distressed neighborhoods and bring hope to folks living in America's poorest communities."

Now Congress and the President should finish the job.

Success has many fathers, but both parties can and should take credit for the bipartisan agreement in the House. Leaders in both parties share a vision of helping America's neediest communities participate in the booming economy.

The House bill combines Republican tax incentives to encourage investment in "renewal communities" with Democratic tax credits and loan guarantees for investment in "new markets."

The legislation offers a new model for reseeding low-income communities by connecting them to capital markets, while strengthening existing programs for community development and affordable housing.

Just as the Overseas Private Investment Corp. helps promote private investment in developing countries, this bill would create America's Private Investment Companies to spur up to $1 billion of private-sector investment in untapped domestic markets.

For example, venture capital firms that operate with a "double bottom line" of social and financial return would qualify for loan guarantees of $2 for every $1 of private equity capital invested in helping small businesses start up in designated communities.

New tax credits for banks' investments in selected community development entities, tax credits of up to $3,000 on wages paid to community workers, and even capital gains' exclusion for sale of assets would all help promote growth.

In addition, the Small Business Administration could designate small, local "new market venture capital companies," including those with bank shareholders, that could raise debt backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

If the Senate acts, we will be able to leverage private investments to build sustainable communities where people can live, start their own businesses, or work in those started by others. We will be able to keep the tide of prosperity rising in America.

This bill deserves to be enacted.


Ms. Kennedy is president of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, which represents over 200 organizations, including 80 insured depository institutions, and 800 individuals.

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