Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel Pierce vowed yesterday to appeal directly to the president this week if top White House advisers insist on making drastic cuts in the budget for the Federal Housing Administration mortgage program that has put millions of Americans into their first homes.
The FHA is the second program that Pierce specifically has said he will take to the president if he does not convince a White House budget appeals board to veto Office of Management and Budget proposals. The other is the Urban Development Action Grants (UDAG) program, which he had fought for successfully last spring when OMB tried to kill it.
"It's a game and a battle, and we'll see who wins," Pierce said.
Low-income housing groups and some in Congress see the process as a different sort of game--one in which the president gives HUD "wins" on typically Republican programs such as UDAG and FHA, which has no budget impact and affects generally middle-income homebuyers, while HUD takes a dive on low-income housing assistance.
HUD started making its case last Friday to a three-man appeals board consisting of OMB Director David Stockman, White House Chief of Staff James Baker and Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver. HUD negotiated with the board over the weekend, and Pierce said the talks probably will continue up to the time he makes his appeals to the president, scheduled for Thursday.
OMB has proposed slashing huge chunks out of HUD's fiscal 1983 budget. The OMB plan calls for an end by 1987 to the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae), a HUD agency that backs FHA- and VA-insured mortgages. It also would end all federal construction of low-income housing, would greatly reduce housing subsidies to the poor and would cut federal help to local authorities to maintain public housing.
At a press conference called yesterday to claim credit for a successful year at the housing department, Pierce declined to say if HUD had won any rounds against OMB so far in the appeals process but said he hasn't gotten frustrated in the negotiations yet.
Pierce pointed out that last spring the FHA survived an assault by the OMB. "I hope to resolve this fight with OMB in the appeals board , but if not I'll make our case to the president," he said.
The secretary also announced that the administration shortly will unveil a proposal on enterprize zones, designed to bring businesses to distressed urban areas by providing tax breaks and regulatory relief.