Indifference - "the fact that nobody really gives a damn" - was cited by a top official of a Department of Housing and Urban Development as one of the three main reasons for rising housing costs.

HUD Undersecretary Jay Janis recently told a housing industry group meeting in the Nation's Capital that builders are indifferent to increasing housing costs because they can pass them on to buyers, Mortgage lenders are indifferent, he said, because they continue to get interest on their loans. Local government is indifferent, Janis said, because it continues to collect its taxes.

In addition to indifference, Janis listed the cost of regulation and the cost of "cyclicality" as the other two major reasons for housing cost increases. he said the latter results from the "racheting effect" caused by housing production volume going rapidly up in one year and rapidly down in another.

"Some years ago," the HUD undersecretary said, "a painter might use only a four-inch brush outside. I remember that in certain areas a painter could use a brush but not a spraygun. Some lathers couldn't use stilts to do ceilings but had to use scaffolding.

"For many years these practices persisted because nobody cared enough to raise a fuss."