Mayor-elect Sharon Pratt Dixon's administration plans to "reach out" to nonprofit housing developers for help in meeting the District's low- and moderate-income housing needs, Dixon and her aides told housing activists this week.

Speaking at a gathering of nearly 30 private, nonprofit groups that provide housing for poor and homeless people, Dixon aide Paul Pryde said the new mayor will "stabilize and improve" long-troubled public housing projects and increase the supply of other affordable dwellings.

As part of those efforts, nonprofit organizations can expect more attention and assistance from the the District's government when they build and rehabilitate housing for the poor, said Pryde, who is economic development co-chairman on Dixon's transition team.

Dixon believes that private housing providers have been "underutilized in the District," Pryde said.

The mayor-elect emphasized this view of the private role in housing development at a hearing this week held by her transition team's housing group.

"We've got to tap into the not-for-profits" already producing low-cost homes for residents of the District, she said.

Pryde told the meeting of private housing organizations it is "unconscionable" that more than 2,400 public housing units in Washington are empty and a "disgrace" that a large number of unoccupied private dwellings are boarded up.

Much of the vacant public housing in the District is uninhabitable and awaiting major rehabilitation, he said.

The D.C. government's housing policies "have been a contributing factor in the problems," Pryde said, adding, "I take it as a given that there'll be new faces at the {D.C.} Department of Housing and Community Development."

The District "has too many housing programs and we don't fund them enough," he said. As a result, "We've taken a job that is conceptually difficult and made it practically impossible."

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides the money to operate public housing in the District, has designated D.C.'s public housing agency as "operationally and financially troubled," Pryde said.

This status requires public housing officials to make more detailed reports of spending than usual and to get HUD approval for more of its decisions.

In the past, D.C. administrators have not worked well with federal housing officials, Pryde said, adding that the District's relationship with HUD has ranged in the past from "tepid to adversarial."

The Dixon administration will attempt to improve the District's relations with federal authorities "so we can use the money that is available for the city," he said.

According to Pryde, the District has lost as much as $17 million in federal funds that it could have used to meet public housing needs in past years because of the friction and city inefficiency.

Charles E. Dell, who helped organize the meeting of nonprofit organizations, welcomed Pryde's statements, saying they show the Dixon administration will give affordable housing "a high priority."

Nonprofit groups, which have produced more than 700 units of D.C. housing during the past four years, "are ready to spring into action" to build or rehabilitate more units if they get aid and encouragement from the new administration, Dell said.

Emphasizing the need for housing, the Rev. Keary C. Kincannon, executive director of the Churches Conference on Shelter and Housing, said at the meeting that 5,000 men, women and children are in metropolitan Washington area homeless shelters or transitional housing every night. In addition, "an untold number" are on the streets, he said.