IN 1977 Congress created the National Commission on Neighborhoods and asked it to come up with suggestions of things the federal government could do to bring new life to the nation's deteriorating neighborhoods. The panel recently presented President Carter with more than 200 ideas.

The commission offers no single answer to urban ills. There are some recommendations for increasing the budget of one or another program, but there are also a surprising number of ideas for projects that won't cost more money. Moreover, the commission performs a real service by calling attention to programs some neighborhoods have already made work. In Baltimore, for example, a community group worked with a medical team from Johns Hopkins Hospital and created a health center, a drug-treatment center and a dental clinic-along with a comprehensive medical-care plan that has been offered to more than 10,000 residents. In a Chicago neighborhood, residents concerned about teen-age unemployment started a program in housing renovation; students receive traiing on abandoned buildings in the neighborhood.

The panel also found that even the best community activities are often undermined by unnecessary unreasonable government rules and regulations. In one striking example, a St. Louis community group became so proficient in providing hot meals to old people that it was awarded a federal contract to expand the program. But the checks from the government were often late, so the group had to borrow money from a bank to make ends meet-thereby losing the credit rating it had taken years to develop. When the checks finally arrived, the loan was repaid-and then members of the group found out that they couldn't use their federal money to repay the interest on the loan. Little wonder that the group is considering shutting down the program.

Despite much confusion and difficulty, many people are having some effect in their neighborhoods-and some local officials are beginning to recognize and support them. That leaves the federal government with a task more difficult in some ways than coming up with more money: straightening out the bureaucracy. Federal officials should be helping community residents, not hobbling them.