Cuts to funding for public housing will end up costing taxpayers more in the long run, a group of mayors and public-housing directors said in Philadelphia yesterday.

"Public housing has been cut by billions of dollars - not millions of dollars - and it is creating a huge, huge strain," Mayor Street said after hosting a meeting of mayors and housing authority leaders from 20 cities.

Funding for Philadelphia from the federal Community Development Block Grant program declined from $71.7 million in 2001 to $53.6 million in 2007, a reduction of 25 percent, officials said.

Participants said cuts will result in more people living on the streets and increase dependence on shelters.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority said providing mental health care for someone living on the street costs an average of $31,500 a year. Officials cited the case of such a man who later become a public-housing tenant whose mental-health-care costs are only $6,600 a year.

"It falls back on the residents of the municipality when you have to increase the police force" or spend money on other services that cost more in the absence of decent places to live, said John Fabrizi, mayor of Bridgeport, Conn. *