WASHINGTON -- In the 1930s, they were hailed as the salvation of the inner city. Now many are broken-down hulks, homes to gangs, drug dealers, and addicts.

But, almost 60 years after construction began, the bill for high-rise public housing projects is still due. The federal government quietly pays principal and interest on billions of dollars of federally guaranteed tax-exempt bonds issued to finance the projects; it will continue doing so well into the 21st century.

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