A federal appeals court told the Bush administration Friday that it does not need to immediately restart a housing program for thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims.

The ruling suspends an order by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who said last month that the Federal Emergency Management Agency violated the Constitution when it eliminated short-term housing assistance. Leon said the agency didn't explain its reasoning and provided victims only confusing computer-generated codes to explain its decision.

Under Leon's order, FEMA appeared on track to restore housing payments to families in Texas.

"Maybe we can get this thing jump-started and get these people a roof over their heads before Christmas," Leon said Monday.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit puts that on hold at least until March. The court suspended Leon's order until the case can be argued before the panel.

FEMA did not immediately say how it would respond to the decision. Texas officials have already been advised that the program would be restarted.