NEW ORLEANS — Vice President George Bush, principal speaker at the National Assn. of Realtors' annual convention here last week, defended the Reagan Administration's record on home ownership in the wake of the association's strong anti-administration statement of policy involving housing issues.
But before he did that, upon arrival at the annual meeting of the realtors, the vice president held a press conference and, incongruously, talked at length about the Reagan Adminstration's Operation Hat Trick II--dealing with the theme of international drug trafficking, a subject not of particular concern to most of the 15,000 attending the association's 78th annual meeting.
Convention officials and reporters recalled that Bush had used the same topic for his main theme at the association's 1981 convention in Miami.
After reporters changed the subject at the press conference, Bush defended the Reagan Adminstration's housing policies, prior to his speech to the convention, and acknowledged that there is a dispute between the association and the Reagan Adminstration over several tax proposals now under consideration by Congress.
He did not discuss drug trafficking during his address to the convention but he did react to the association's strongly worded policy statement on housing, which firmly disagrees with the Administration's tax revision proposals, labeling them as anti-home ownership, anti-savings and anti-investment, not only for real estate, but as they affect the nation's entire economy.
The statement--drawn up by association leaders who were slow to react against a conservative Republican administration--followed four years of declining home ownership percentage levels, combined with a tax reform proposal that is viewed as anti-housing.
"We believe the proposal would result in a higher deficit, less employment, increased cost to homeowners and renters, a severe decrease in the value of existing real estate and less home ownership," the association's policy statement reads.
In his most forceful statement yet on the subject, Jack Carlson, vice president and chief economist of the 680,000-member association said that the administration's policies have resulted in 4 million fewer households achieving the American dream of home ownership in the last five years.
This perceived anti-home ownership policy of the Reagan Administration is not only poor economics--depriving the nation of the higher savings levels generated by homeowners compared to renters--it is a "bad social policy change" from the continuing emphasis on home ownership that has permeated the nation since the Great Depression more than 50 years ago, Carlson added.
Carlson said that in 1981--the same year President Reagan was inaugurated--the "socialist-dominated" United Nations made a dramatic policy change away from support of government ownership of housing to one that supported private home ownership.
He added that home ownership is a positive force against virtually all of the nation's social problems, and that the continuing decline in home ownership--especially among the ranks of prospective first-time buyers--is cause for alarm.
During his address, Bush told the conventiion, "We must continue to work so that an increasing percentage of Americans can own their homes, young families as well." He added that he believes Reagan will not support any tax revision that is "anti-home ownership, anti-investment, anti-business."
Echoing the sentiments of many speakers during the five-day convention, Bush declared that federal budget deficit reduction must be the nation's top priority to "keep the nation's economy growing, not just for the next year or the next three years, but into the next decade and the next century."
At the news conference, Bush said that while the administration strongly supports the budget reduction proposal by Sens. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) and Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), the White House hopes the measure doesn't get "decimated by a lot of exclusions somewhere along the road."
Gramm-Rudman-Hollings calls for a scheduled annual reduction of the deficit through 1991, when the budget would be balanced.
Another convention speaker, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.), called for a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget, citing the 32 states that have petitioned Congress for such action, only two states shy of action. California is not one of the 32 states that have called for this constitutional convention.
Dole also urged adoption of a presidential line-item veto, a tool already available to 43 governors. Congress needs this discipline as much as the President needs a line-item veto to keep federal spending down, Dole said.
On the issue of tax reform--much debated by housing trade associations this year--Dole said that it won't happen in 1985, and "whatever we see in mid-1986 will be less than President Reagan's tax reform proposal and a lot less than the original proposal by the Treasury Department."