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HUD leader delivers harsh assessment

Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros acknowledged Tuesday that his agency's hapless management of apartment buildings it owns has "exacerbated the declining quality of life in urban America."

Cisneros told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that a wave of defaults on government-insured mortgages has left the Department of Housing and Urban Development owning a rapidly growing inventory of troubled properties.

Cisneros' testimony comes as HUD grapples with what he termed a crisis in its programs for apartment buildings.

A recent internal report concluded that HUD was most likely to sustain losses of as much as $11.9-billion over the next few years as owners defaulted on government-insured mortgages.

Much of that cost would be borne by the taxpayers through congressional appropriations.

"HUD's management of its inventory has been abysmal," Cisneros said.