President Bush may ask Congress to end the statutory limitation on the Federal Housing Administration's multifamily insurance program, Federal Housing Commissioner John Weicher hinted at the National Association of Home Builders annual convention in Las Vegas.Calling the annual process in which lawmakers must appropriate funds to run the section 223(d)(4) and other General Insurance/Special Risk Insurance Fund programs "cockamamie," the assistant HUD secretary told an NAHB committee "there may be something useful in the president's budget." The programs were temporarily suspended in early December after exhausting their commitment authority, and have been shuttered twice more since then after running out of additional funding approved by Congress in continuing resolutions. The latest CR was intended to keep the programs operating through Jan. 31, but the extra funding ran out Jan. 14. Now HUD is waiting for lawmakers to come back to Washington to approve either another extension or the HUD budget, which is now part of the controversial omnibus appropriations package. "Because business is so good and Congress can't agree, we close down and you are stuck," the FHA commissioner told the builders, adding that he would "welcome" the NAHB's support to change the rules. "Congress is going to have to do something," Mr. Weicher said. Otherwise, at the pace the programs are operating, they are likely to run out of money again and again.

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