PRESIDENT Bill Clinton of the United States says he will create a task force to produce ideas on how to expand home ownership to include more poor and minority buyers. In an address to the National Association of Realtors, Mr Clinton said home ownership had been sliding since 1980. 'We have to turn this around . . . and I am convinced that we can do it,' he said, saying his goal was to bring home ownership to 'an all-time high in the US before the century is over'. Mr Clinton said he had asked Henry Cisneros, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to create a task force which drew on such groups as real estate agents, mortgage bankers, urban developers and anti-poverty workers. They would draw up a strategy and report to the White House within six months, he said. Part of the effort would be to help minorities or low-income people unable to buy a home because they could not come up with the large down-payment needed or were unable to get a mortgage because of discrimination. Meanwhile, new home sales rose 2.6 per cent in September, the third straight advance, confounding analysts who expected rising mortgage rates to crimp consumer demand. Sales were mixed, rising sharply in the northeast and in the south while falling in the midwest and west, the Commerce Department reported. Sales totalled 703,000 at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, up from a revised 685,000 in August, when they rose 7.9 per cent. August sales originally were estimated to have shot up 9.7 per cent, to a 703,000 rate, but many analysts had said that total was not supported by other data and would be revised downward in the report. Analysts had expected sales to drop to the upper-600,000 level in September as rising mortgage rates made housing more unaffordable, particularly for first-time buyers. According to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp, rates averaged 8.68 per cent in September. The average had risen to 9.03 per cent in the previous week, the highest since March 1992. Rates had dipped to a 25-year low of 6.74 per cent in October last year. An increase from seven per cent to nine per cent would add US$209 to the monthly payment on a $150,000 mortgage. Despite higher rates, September sales were the third straight advance. Sales had risen 1.1 per cent in July after plunging 9.2 per cent in June. Analysts said job and income growth were offsetting the effects of higher rates. So far this year, sales are 5.1 per cent above the first nine months of last year. For all of last year, sales totalled 666,000. The report estimated a seasonally adjusted 326,000 new homes were for sale in September, the highest since 328,000 in November 1990. That represented a supply of 5.7 months at the current sales rate, unchanged from August but down from 6.1 months in July.