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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?''

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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

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'86 3,106

'87 2,449

'88 4,000 (est.)

'89 4,000 (est.)

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