A Radical Housing Initiative

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addresses a special session of Israel's parliament, or Knesset, in Jerusalem Monday Aug. 14, 2006.
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
President Clinton and Republicans both struck messages of compassion Saturday, saying they're doing what they can to help needy Americans.

Clinton announced measures to help the homeless and those trying to buy homes, while the GOP said President-elect Bush is committed to "mobilizing the armies of compassion" to help the needy.

Bush, who campaigned as a "compassionate conservative" met Wednesday with about 30 Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy and scholars. He also has promised to create an "office of faith-based action" in the White House, Kansas Gov. Bill Graves noted.

Clinton, who leaves office in four weeks, said the Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding more than $1 billion in grants to help more than 200,000 homeless people find shelter and become more self-sufficient.

"The steps we're taking now will create new opportunity for the homeless, for hard-pressed working families and for those struggling to buy their first home," the president said in his weekly radio address.

As CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick reports, President Clinton is ordering some of the most radical reforms in the housing administration's 50-year history. But they may just be a Christmas wish, as conservative critics are already on the warpath, and a conservative president is waiting in the wings.

"It's a landmine for the next administration," said Robert Woodson of the National Center For Neighborhood Enterprise. "It's social engineering that didn't work with bussing and won't work this time."

Clinton also announced a rule requiring public housing authorities to do more to integrate public housing projects, with Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo adding in a statement, "Uncle Sam's own housing should be a model of integration."

Under the rule, public housing agencies must survey clients and try to provide a mix of income levels in different buildings. Cuomo said the rule would apply only to new tenants and not affect people already living in public housing.

"This will help break down destructive barriers of race and class," Clinton said.

In addition, Clinton said the government is raising the maximum amount people may borrow from the Federal Housing Administration to $239,250, from $219,000.

A Bush spokesman said the new administration would review Clinton's housing rule changes and could take new action once he takes office. It would be within president-elect Bush's power to redirect the money and cancel Mr. Clinton's plan.

Graves, in the Republican radio address, said faith-based programs in his state and in Texas, where Bush was governor for five years, are "innovative partnerships" that will work.

In Kansas, the state's social service agency turned its foster care and adoption programs for abused and neglected children over to private, nonprofit religious groups in 1996.

Bush promised during the presidential campaign to make it easie for spiritual organizations to help the poor and said government money should go to such groups. Critics have said such an arrangement could raise constitutional problems of church-state separation.

Graves also said Bush's choices for the Cabinet and other major positions in the administration reflect a commitment to diversity.

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