Housing officials from Utah have been lobbying Congress all week hoping that President Bush's call for a kinder, gentler nation will bring more money for kinder, gentler housing programs.

Ed Blaney, a member of the Salt Lake County Housing Authority board, said attendance was especially high this year at the national convention of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials in Washington."That's because the government is in transition, and a lot of people hope that when George Bush talks about a kinder, gentler nation that it will mean more money for housing programs. We're all excited to see what will happen, and have been meeting with our congressional delegations."

Blaney said members of his board are especially hoping for more money for programs such as "urban homesteading," where qualified low-income residents are given old, decaying buildings at almost no cost (maybe just $1) as long as they fix them up and live in them for at least five years.

"We just recently gave out keys to the first five houses in that program," he said. "Four of the five were in Kearns, not far from where I grew up. I'm glad to see some good, enthusiastic families move into vacant houses and fix them up. It can give a whole neighborhood a lift."