The government has developed a new, coordinated attack on the problems of the nation's most troubled public housing projects.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris said the program, called "urban initiatives," will try to show "that we can take the worst housing failures and make them successes."
Using about $50 million in HUD funds, the agency expects to attrack other money that communities get from the Departments of Labor, Interor, and Health, Education and Welfare to deal with such problems as unemployment, crime, and dilapidated buildings in some 60 projects housing about 30,000 families across the country.
HUD plans to announce the new program later this month an begin sending money to the projects in July, said Stephen Coyle, special assistant to Harris.
"This year, with our public housing modernization program, we're creating a way to improve projects with funding over a 20-year period," he said. "So our plan is to fund the worse cases first."
HUD plans to get cities, housing authorities and tenant organizations to cooperate in rehabilitating the projects, he said.
Of 14,000 public housing projects, about 700 are considered "distressed," Coyle said. "We can't tackle them all at once, so we hope to start with about 60, most of them in cities." Tenants and authorities and cities can tell us their priorities - job training, building repair, streets, lights, police protection, social services - and come up with a community strategy for dealing with them.
"We feel that public housing is successful, that it should be expanded and that it won't be unless we can turn around the negative image created by these worst cases," Coyle said.
Some 3.9 million people live in public housing projects, and HUD says another 3 million are on waiting lists to get in. The vacancy rate is 2.9 percent, compared with 6 percent in rental units generally.