With rapidly falling budget deficits opening the door, the federal government is aiming to "get back in the housing business" with new investments to help the poor and the homeless, Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo says.

Filling in details from President Clinton's State of the Union address, Cuomo said the administration will offer Congress a $1.4 billion package of increased spending to provide housing, jobs and inner-city enterprise for the poor.HUD officials said that spending for other purposes, to be announced Monday, will boost the department's planned new spending to an even higher level.

"We have to invest in housing again," Cuomo said in a speech before the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Clinton's plan does that, he said. He called it "the best HUD budget in a generation."

"For years, the federal budget deficit was a barrier to new spending, as it should have been," Cuomo said. "But once you do bring the deficits down you can talk about progressive government again," he said. He noted that Clinton has vowed to reduce deficits to zero in his new budget plan while permitting new spending on a limited range of programs.

The plan Cuomo announced includes $585 million in new spending for 100,000 in new rental subsidies, the first new money for that purpose since 1994.