House Banking Committee members have reached a compromise on a bill to subsidize mortgage interest rates for buyers of new homes, an indication that Congress is uniting behind a plan to aid the housing industry that is opposed by the administration.
Senate leaders have agreed to bring a $5 billion housing subsidy legislation to a floor vote, probably the week after next, congressional sources said.
A similar bill is likely to be adopted by the Banking Committee's subcommittee on housing next week, House members and staff aides said.
The legislation would have the government pay for several percentage points of a moderate-income homebuyer's interest rate for five years.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), author of the Senate bill, has said it would make below-market-rate loans available to up to 450,000 families and would create 700,000 jobs by stimulating the housing industry.
The House's $3.5 billion version is less expensive than the Senate's and provides more assistance to buyers at lower income levels. The Senate bill would lower interest rates by 4 percentage points, and would be worth as much as $13,245 to a homebuyer over the five-year period. The House plan would lower the rate further for persons at lower income levels.
Rep. Jerry Patterson (D-Calif.), who introduced the House bill, said he does not yet have support from the House leadership but he believes House action will be speedy. Banking Committee members have reached a general consensus on it, he said.
The compromise is only for fiscal 1983, however, which starts in October, and Patterson said he wants another $1 billion added for the rest of fiscal 1982.
"The stimulus will not be felt until next year" unless fiscal 1982 funds are added, he said. Sponsors of the legislation have said it must be approved quickly to have an impact on this year's building season.
The White House has opposed the mortgage-rate-subsidy idea despite the strong backing it has among key Senate Republicans, saying it costs too much.
The subsidy is to be recaptured when the home is refinanced or resold, but the administration is worried about its impact on the budget now.
Meanwhile, 13 public housing authorities, including Baltimore's, have taken the Department of Housing and Urban Development to court, seeking release of $500 million in operating subsidies for public housing.
The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Washington yesterday, saying the funds were approved by Congress for fiscal years 1981 and 1982 but that HUD has withheld them unlawfully. Authorities whose fiscal years began in January have had to operate for four months with none of the 1982 monies, the officials said.
A HUD spokesman said the department would have no comment on the suit until it has been studied.