Economist Walter Heller told home builders meeting here this week that the economy is poised for fairly reasonable growth - although it will not be "not off to the races." He also told the builders that housing "should be the star of the show" in the first half of 1977.
Heller and economist Herbert Stein, who ordinarily see the economy from somewhat different perspectives, were here to speak at the annual convention of the National Association of Home Builders.
Stein, former White House economic adviser under President Nixon and now a teacher at the University of Virginia, predicted that housing starts will total 1.9 million this year, while Heller put the figure at 1.8 to 1.9 million.
Heller, the resident White House economics expert in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, now teaches at the University of Minnesota and is a consultant. He said he expects President Carter to respond to the basic low level of the economy with a tax rebate that might average about $50 a person, adding that the wage-price spiral is a prime challenge to Carter, whom he characterized as a "cautious activist."
Heller added that both unemployment and inflation are too high at current levels, but said he now sees no signs of an "inflation expectancy" factor that would exacerbate rising prices as the result of consumer spending.
On the other hand, Stein did not discount the threat of inflation expectancy which he fears might bring wage-price controls. He endorsed a permanent tax reduction to aid the economy, and added that housing needs no stimulus. He said he favors getting rid of all housing subsidy programs and substituting direct cash aid to low-income persons who need help to attain adequate housing.