The letter Beulah Johnson received Nov. 1 from the District of Columbia housing department said that she and her family had to vacate their rundown, city-owned Bates Street home by Feb. 1. "It shook us all up," Johnson recalled yesterday.

A letter hand-delivered yesterday to Johnson also was from the city housing department. This letter was sent to "clarify" the intent of the November message by assuring tenants that it was not an eviction notice, city officials explained.

The first letter - dated Oct. 31 - was mailed to more than 300 families who live in city-owned housing while awaiting permanent relocation. The letter said that the housing staff would help them find places to move, but many of the families and several community organizations responded in anger to what they felt were "scaretactics" by the city housing department to force displaced families to move.

The new letter, signed by housing director Lorenzo Jacobs Jr., explains that the District of Columbia expects to relocate all families displaced because of U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded projects by the end of next September.

HUD has threatened to cut off federal community development funds to D.C. because of concerns about the city's relocation program.

Yesterday's letter points out that if a family refuses to move into housing offered them by the city, "the Department . . . may initiate eviction procedures." Families can appeal to the housing department and to HUD if they feel they have not been offered decent, safe, sanitary and affordable housing, it says.