The Dec. 18 front-page article "Downtown Housing Plan Voted" relates directly to another news story that day, "Amid Fiscal Crisis, a Prosperous Philadelphia."

The vote by the D.C. Zoning Commission in support of some housing downtown, and in turn, a stronger residential taxpayer base, directs the way for this city not to end up with the financial disaster underway in Philadelphia. Opponents of the zoning commission's decision, such as Jim Dickerson of Manna Inc. and Washington commercial developers, advocate an all-commercial downtown core for Washington. Their limited foresight would have pushed Washington toward a fiscal dilemma similar to the financial plight of Philadelphia.

During the past decade, Philadelphia has seen its downtown boom with office construction and retail shopping, much as the western section of downtown Washington has grown. Philadelphia has also seen its "rock-solid working class" disappear to the suburbs, much as Washington has experienced a middle-class white flight and is now experiencing a middle-class black flight to the suburbs. As the central retail core of Washington has been demolished and replaced with large office complexes, the financial strain on the remaining resident taxpayers has increased.

Mr. Dickerson, a developer of nonprofit housing, addresses this housing issue as economic class warfare, with a take-from-the-poor-and-give-to-the-rich scenario. He is wrong. The downtown housing requirement does not destroy residential structures but mandates new housing construction. Future housing in the currently undeveloped wasteland of the east end of the downtown core will allow Washington to expand its taxpayer base, in contrast to the loss of taxpayers by Philadelphia. Washington needs a solid middle-class tax base that will allow the District government the means to carry out its goals.

ROBERT E. HAMMACK Washington