After a seven-month hiatus, Herbert Wetzel, the city's former Redevelopment Authority boss, has returned to city government, hired by City Council as its first housing and community development director.

Wetzel, 58, will earn $110,000, a drop from his old salary of $135,000.

When he resigned from the Street administration in September, Wetzel had been an opponent of the administration's plan to streamline its three housing agencies.

Wetzel worked closely with John Dougherty, the electrician-union leader and RDA chairman, who publicly took on Street over the so-called "housing reorganization."

By last fall, however, the administration had gained its initial victory in downsizing RDA and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp., and shifting functions to the city's Office of Housing and Community Development.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, chairman of Council's Housing Committee, said yesterday that after Wetzel left RDA, Council members wanted to recruit him even as he was being courted by the Street administration for other jobs, including a casino- gaming position.

"We always wanted him and we're glad that we could work it out," Blackwell said. "Herb is a person we all trust. He's a real housing expert and a true blessing to have."

Wetzel said his goal is to provide "a high level of technical assistance" to members of Council in the areas of housing and community development.

For example, if a developer approaches a Council member with a plan for a tract in that member's district, Wetzel said he'd be able to advise the member on the project's feasibility. *