As the debate on whether to extend federal housing measures continues on Capitol Hill, the secretaries of the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) threw their support behind the measures. In a joint release, Treasury secretary Tim Geithner and HUD secretary Shaun Donovan said Congress should extend the first-time homebuyer tax credit and the higher loan limits for mortgages, as well as approve the National Housing Trust Fund, a billion-dollar initiative that would allocate unused Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money to provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely and very low income households. While the National Housing Trust Fund was established in 2008, it has never been effectively funded, the secretaries said. Similar legislation in both the House and Senate call for using $1bn in TARP money to establish the fund. While most of the funds would help promote renting for extremely and very low-income households, some funds would also be used to promote affordable homeownership efforts. If Congress approves the tax credit extension, the secretaries said Congress should include strict measures to combat tax fraud and protect responsible homeowners. By extending the temporary loan limits for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae (FNM), and Freddie Mac (FRE), the secretaries said middle-class families will have access to affordable mortgages and aid housing recovery. “These three measures will help support our efforts to stabilize the housing market by providing support for the recovery in housing prices, keeping mortgage rates low, and helping people who can afford their homes to avoid foreclosure,” Geithner said. “While extending the tax credit and higher loan limits will help promote homeownership, funding the Housing Trust Fund will provide assistance to renter households impacted by the economic crisis,” Donovan added. Write to Austin Kilgore.