In late 1969, two similar federally subsidized housing projects opened in Prince George's County.
Today, one stands deserted, boarded up and partially demolished, an embarrassing disaster for its former owners and the federal government.
The other is filled to capacity, has a four-month waiting list of families anxious to move in and is cited as a prime example of how the housing programs of the 1960s can work.
The two projects, the disastrous Baber Village and the sought-after Indian Head Manor, illustrate how projects built under the same federal laws, with the same government loans and subsidies, regulated by the same officials and monitored by the same inspectors can have almost opposite results.
With repairs, new subsidies and management changes, the government believes, Baber Village and the other failed Prince George's projects could match Indian Head's success.
Although Baber Village and Indian Head Manor looked alike when they were built, there were major planning, construction, and managerial differences between them.
Indian Head Manor is two miles south of the Capital Beltway in a middle-class neighborhood, far away from the blighted area of Seat Pleasant where Baber Village stands.
And although rents below the market rate are charged, the management here has avoided all but the most affluent of low-income families; tenants who receive government rent subsidies are not allowed to move in.
A family of four must make at least $8,300 to move into Indian Head, and can have an income as high as $21,400. Such a family would live in a three-bedroom apartment, and pay a rent of $248, $100 less than the average rent for three-bedroom units in Prince George's.
By contrast, the tenants of Baber Village received subsidies from the government that covered as much as 70 percent of their rents. If the project were open now, a family of four could be paying as little as $104 in rent.
Indian Head Manor's owners also managed to avoid planning and design mistakes that plagued Baber Village.
Fifty-nine percent of Indian Head's apartments have one or two bedrooms, while only 41 percent have three or four bedrooms. At Baber Village, only 25 percent of the apartments had one or two bedrooms, and the project quickly became overcrowded.
Indian Head is not only less dense than Baber Village, but it is airconditioned, and there are two playgrounds and a community center that tenants can use. At Baber Village, amenities consisted of two swing sets, two monkey-bars, and two see-saws.
More importantly, county officials say the owners and managers of Indian Head ar careful to prevent outbreaks of vandalism or allow apartments to decay.
"We take care of the apartments," said Phyllis Johnson, the project's manager. "We have problems, but we try hard to stop them right away."
"I've lived here for four years, and I know everyone who lives here by name. Because they know me, they feel free to come and tell me if there's a problem or if something is not working."
cWe have some vandalism here," Johnson said. "But if a door gets torn off one night, we have a policy to fix it the next morning, rather than let it wait. If it happens again the next night, we go right out and fix it again. After a while, you wear the kids down."
There is also a 24-hour telephone number that tenants can call to report maintenance problems, and Johnson said that complaints are handled within 48 hours.
"They do try hard," said one tenant last week. "Something will break down, like the air conditioning breaks down at night, but they usually do something about it. It's pretty nice here."
There is erosion around some of the buildings at Indian Head, and some of the wooden doors were damaged on a recent afternoon. The paint of some of the balconies is peeling.
But there are no boarded up windows here, apartments do not flood when it rains, and for housing officials, there is one key difference between this project and Baber Village: instead of a long list of vacant apartments, there is a list of families who want to move in. CAPTION: Picture 1, Children play in an Indian Head Manor courtyard that is dotted with playground equipment and shade trees; Picture 2, Indian Head Manor resident Connie Proctor poses with her son, Charlie; Picture 3, Indian Head Manor is considered one of the better-managed public housing projects in Prince George's County.