President Carter's special envoy Clark Clifford toured a U.S.-assisted new housing development inhabited by Greek Cypriot refugees here today, getting a taste of the achievements and political subtitles of what virtually all observers agree is a highly successful aid program.

The three-year-old program, costing about $85 million, is assisting basic development and fueling a small economic miracle in the Greek section of the island, as well as helping absorb the politically volatile refugees. In the Greek Cypriot south, most of the money is being spent on housing; in the Turkish north of the island, most goes for health facilities.

On a per capita basis, Cyprus gets the highest rate of American aid in the world, with the $72.5 million in U.S. assistance carefully divided between the 480,000 Greek Cypriots and the 120,000 Turkish Cypriots. More than $10 million has been furnished by the World Bank and other agencies, and both Greece and Turkey furnish aid along communal lines.

American and U.N. officials are virtually unanimous in their praise for the skillful, conscientious way in which both sides have put the aid to work.

While the full impact of the program will be felt only this year, as projects are complete, the Greek portion of the island has scored spectacular results, including a record growth rate last year of 15 per cent, according to surveys here by American banks.

By normal economic criteria, Cyprus would not qualify for development aid: The per-capita income of the Greek Cypriot majority is about $1,400 a year, comparable to Western European levels.

The Carter Administration has recommended halting aid to Cyprus in fiscal 1978, but a knowledgeable congressional source here recently predicted that Congress would restore some aid, partly to placate influential Greek-Americans.

The fact that all American aid is meticulously divided between Greek and Turkish cypriots is only one of the complications.

Greek Cypriot refugees in the new project outside Nicosia that Clifford toured today stressed that they want to return to their old homes in the Turkish-occupied north, but Turkish Cypriot officials rule out any massive return of ethnic Greeks to the area.

The new development, 700 family apartments in well-laid-out, three story blocks climbing a gentle slope, topped by solar water heaters, cost $6 million, shared equally by the Cyprus government and the United States. It is a comfortable contrast to the tent camps where 150,000 Greek Cypriot refugees were first put after the Turkish invasion three summers ago.

Legally, the move is only temporary, pending the refugees' opportunity to get back in their own property. The new flats do not belong to their occupants.

Most observers are convinced that tens of thousands of Greek Cypriot refugees will never go home again, but this unpalatable political fact is not publicly admitted. The new developments are technically an accelerated implementation of a long-delayed program of low-cost housing.

The designs have been acclaimed in Europe as a model of how to modernize traditional mud-brick villages. Cottage industries get going fast, and small factories are locating around the new villages to use th labor and boost Cyprus' new export-oriented industries. The percentage of manufactured goods in Cyprus' exports has increased since the Turkish invasion deprived many families of their land.

Throughout the relief program, American officials have concentrated on creating employment. Construction of new villages has absorbed manpower, and American cash for local food purchase has stimulated market farming by improved methods, another export booster.

On the Turkish Cypriot side, which Clifford is to visit Friday, the main projects are a $3 million hospital and mental ward and agricultural development. While no match for the Greek Cypriot managers, Turkish Cypriot officials, particularly in agriculture, have done "a fantastic job, too," said one official involved in the program.

Diplomat commented on the efficiency of the program, which is administered by an American and three UN officials: "the same program in many parts of the world would require 75 Americans," he said. Careful audits have never turned up a discrepancy, other officials said.

The United States has had no public acknowledgement from Greek or Turkish Cypriot authorities, and the whole program is carried out in the name of the United Nations to avoid political repercussions.

Cyprus television reports of Clifford's visit today are the closest the American role has come to any official Cypriot publicity.