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HOUSE VOTES TO END LAWS ON PUBLIC HOUSING

The House passed a measure that would erase 60 years of federal public-housing law and replace it with a block grants program.

Brushing aside claims by some Democrats that the bill would be a disaster for the poor, the House voted 315-107 on Thursday in favor of the abolishing what one Republican called a "dysfunctional" public housing system. Ninety-one Democrats joined 224 Republicans in voting yes.Voting no were four Republicans, 102 Democrats and one independent.

The bill included an amendment by Rep. Enid Greene, R-Utah, to get federal housing funds for West Jordan. The Salt Lake suburb had become eligible for community development block grant funds in 1990 when it hit 50,000 population. The $440,000 allocation in 1993 was withdrawn when the Census Bureau concluded the population was less than 50,000.

Greene contended it wasn't fair that cities had to maintain population levels for two years to remain in the program, while counties had to do so only one year.

She also said the loss of the federal funds was a hardship on West Jordan, since the money already had been committed to various low-income groups.

The Senate passed a more limited public housing overhaul plan in January, and negotiators from the two houses will meet to work out the differences.

Opponents said the bill would raise rents for low-income people, decrease already meager resources spent on the less fortunate and force many of them into the streets.

The bill would close the nation's 3,400 public housing authorities and replace them with new local agencies that would have more autonomy. The agencies would share $6.3 billion in block grants received from the federal government in each of the next five years.

The bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Rick Lazio, R-N.Y., and fellow Republicans said the shift in power to the local level would help clear America's largest cities of sprawling, crime-ridden public housing projects that have become magnets for violence and drug trafficking.