After 10 years of willful neglect, America now has a kinder and gentler federal housing program. Housing and Urban Development chief Jack Kemp can take some of the credit here, but the 101st Congress did the lion's share of the work in shifting course. Mr. Kemp's HOPE program, designed to sell off public housing to tenants, and Shelter Plus Care, which combines housing aid with social services, both made it into a landmark housing bill signed into law in late November.
The bill has many other parts, some of which give the Bush administration pause. Besides continuing for the next two years programs already up and running, such as $9 billion worth of rental assistance contracts, the reauthorization will fund up to 360,000 additional units of affordable housing. In fiscal 1991, it will provide $17.9 billion in spending, about $3.36 billion above the existing level. In fiscal 1992, it provides $20.6 billion, $5.5 billion above current spending.
Here's one of the best parts: Under a block grant program, state and local governments will have a greater role in the structuring of housing programs using federal dollars. That money, under a formula similar to the Section 8 rent subsidy program, is to be used for rent assistance as well as for the rehabilitation of older buildings.