Last year, public housing authorities received federal funds to build 5,000 units nationwide. Bob McKay, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), a research and lobbying group, estimates that is one-seventh of the yearly demand. As fewer new units are constructed, the working poor compete for fewer spaces. Result: Public housing becomes more of a shelter for the very poor than a viable community of poor, working families.

``Working families are important role models.'' says Rick Nelson, executive director of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. ``If there are no role models in public housing, who will inspire the poorest of the poor to work?''

The following table shows the number of federally subsidized housing starts by year. The data were provided by CLPHA, which based them on HUD budget summaries. (Note: There is a 3-4 year lag between the time funds are allocated and spent.)

'80 36,365 units

'81 41,660

'82 22,906

'83 23,812

'84 20,313

'85 7,714

'86 3,106

'87 2,449

'88 4,000 (est.)

'89 4,000 (est.)

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