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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the month “November, 2017”

The Benefits of Good and Affordable Housing to a Community

Here is an article copied from Why Housing Matters. It is a very comprehensive statement of the importance of housing to other endeavors such as health and education. It is well worth taking a look at. The data was originally gathered by the MacArthur Foundation. Written by Paul Drib in

Why Educators, Health Professionals, and Others Focused on Economic Mobility Should Care about Housing

November 30, 2017

Cities striving to improve residents’ lives often focus on such issues as schools, parks, jobs, or health. Often overlooked is something equally fundamental. Trace the lineage of many social welfare issues, and you will likely uncover a history of substandard, unaffordable housing. Research increasingly shows that safe and affordable housing in strong and thriving neighborhoods is a launching pad to upward mobility for families.

For more than a decade, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has supported research on the role of housing as a platform for opportunity among families. The following summary of findings from more than 20 studies shows that housing shapes our lives in critical and long-lasting ways. Through this and other work, our understanding has expanded, providing greater nuance and insight into the pathways through which housing makes a difference in people’s lives and in communities. These pathways include housing stability, affordability, quality, and location.

The findings are organized for educators, health professionals, and economic development experts who regularly see the direct impact of poor-quality, unaffordable housing but who may not realize housing’s role in those outcomes.

Why educators should care about housing

Safe, stable, and affordable housing during childhood sets the stage for success in school. Children are profoundly affected by their environments during key developmental stages. Chaos in their neighborhood, frequent moves, exposure to pollutants, and unhealthy conditions leave a deep and lasting imprint. When housing consumes too much of a household’s budget, kids may not have enough nutritious food to eat to be ready to learn. Teachers see the ramifications of these conditions in the classroom.

MacArthur Foundation-supported research shows the following:

1 Adolescents living in poor-quality housing have lower math and reading scores and lower math skills in standardized achievement tests, even after adjusting for parenting and other factors.

2 Among young children in high-poverty neighborhoods, substandard housing is the strongest predictor among several housing-related conditions of behavioral or emotional problems.

3 Improving housing stability has long-term benefits for children. Any residential move during childhood is associated with a nearly half-a-year loss in school. Each additional move is associated with small declines in social skills. A majority of US children move at least once during childhood, and a sizable group moves three or more times. The negative effects, however, fade with time.

4 Moving three or more times in childhood is associated with lower earnings, fewer work hours, and less educational attainment later in life.

5 Between ages 6 and 10 is a particularly sensitive time to move. At that age, any move, voluntary or not, is linked to lower educational attainment and lower earnings later in life. (See here for results at other ages.)

6 Families who spend 30 percent of their household income on rent spend more on child enrichment than those who spend either more or less than that on rent.

7 Homelessness is linked to behavioral problems in children, though it is relatively rare and often a one-time experience.

8 Too few families can move to high-performing neighborhood schools, even with housing vouchers to help with rent. One-third of public housing families and one-fourth of families using housing vouchers live near schools that are ranked in the bottom 10th in their state.

9 The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) does better than housing vouchers in placing families near high-performing schools, though the LIHTC serves slightly better–off families.

Why health care professionals should care about housing

Both neighborhood and health disparities are stark in the United States. One’s zip code is as important as one’s genetic code in determining health status or life expectancy. The disparities are linked because where you live offers access to what makes you healthy or unhealthy, from housing without lead or asthma triggers to grocery stores with fresh vegetables, to parks and sidewalks, and access to jobs. Physicians, nurses, and public health experts recognize this, and they are doing more to ensure that the residents they serve live in homes and neighborhoods that promote their health and well-being.

MacArthur Foundation-supported research shows the following:

1 Substandard housing contributed to children’s poor health at age 6 and developmental delays by age 2. (For insights on why, see here.)

2 Housing affects mothers’ health. Poor housing conditions and overcrowding (even just perceived overcrowding) are associated with more depression and hostility among Latino mothers in the Bronx.

3 Moving to low-poverty neighborhoods can improve physical and mental health for adults, including decreased diabetes and obesity.

4 Neighborhood pollution has clear health consequences. Reducing prenatal exposure to pollutants from traffic congestion alone could mean 8,600 fewer preterm births annually, for an annual savings of at least $444 million.

5 Among Latinos living in public housing in the Bronx, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease is significantly higher than for either Section 8 voucher holders or low-income Latinos in general. Nationwide, public housing residents tend to live in poorer neighborhoods than do voucher holders.

6 Neighborhood social cohesion reduces the risk of depression or hostility among low-income Latinos in New York City.

7 About 10 percent of low-income children in a nationally representative survey of urban families were homeless at one point in their childhoods. These children relied more on emergency rooms for health care and had more behavioral problems.

8 Housing for homeless families and rental assistance for food-insecure families improves health outcomes of vulnerable children and lowers health care spending.

Why people focused on ensuring greater economic security and mobility should care about housing

Housing is a launching pad to successful lives. High-quality housing in strong neighborhoods positions residents to capitalize on opportunities. And investing in communities reaps benefits beyond the neighborhood in lower social, health, and economic costs for the city and region. Cities nationwide are working to reverse entrenched poverty and providing needed opportunities for all residents. The findings below demonstrate the connection between housing, neighborhood, and upward mobility.

MacArthur Foundation-supported research shows the following:

1 Improving neighborhood social cohesion and access to jobs and reducing environmental hazards have a strong effect on health, earnings, and well-being.

2 Housing affordability and stability encourage work. Families using housing vouchers were working more consistently after five years than similar low-income families without vouchers.

3 Policies that focus on moving families to better neighborhoods are not enough to address every problem related to poverty. Families need additional supports to overcome their circumstances.

4 Siblings who lived in public housing as teenagers fared better than their siblings who spent less time in public housing. They earned more as young adults and were less likely to be incarcerated. More room in family budgets to invest in children may be one reason for the better results.

5 Improving housing stability for children has long-term benefits. Moving three or more times in childhood—especially between ages 6 and 10—lowered later earnings nearly 52 percent.

6 In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 16 households are evicted every day. Poor, black women are especially vulnerable. Evictions disrupt children’s schooling and perpetuate economic disadvantage.

7 Racial segregation and a tight rental market constrain housing choice for low-income families and may be one reason voucher holders live near lower-performing schools.

8 Inclusionary zoning policies expand access to more economically diverse neighborhoods and better-performing schools, though inclusionary zoning is only a small slice of the affordable housing pie.

9 For low-income seniors, reverse mortgages can be a lifeline. The most effective strategy to reduce default rates is escrowing funds for property tax and insurance payments for borrowers with low FICO credit scores.

These findings underscore the need to invest in healthy, affordable housing for all Americans. Opportunities are shaped by a person’s housing, neighborhood, and environment. Policies that address housing and neighborhood’s role in creating and sustaining opportunities or disadvantage may be one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and promote upward economic mobility.

This article was originally published on the MacArthur Foundation’s website, and has been reproduced in a modestly modified form with permission from the Foundation.

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More About Housing Tax Credits

Much is being written and discussed about the Governor’s decision to terminate Missouri State Affordable Housing Tax Credits. The loss of these credits will make affordable housing difficult to do and adversely affect a certain category of poor person. I am not in favor of eliminating these credits simply because there is really nothing else to work with in the affordable housing arena.

Nevertheless, the greed of some members of the affordable housing industry made this decision by the Governor inevitable. There are many developers, syndicators, attorneys, and consultants who have gotten rich off the program. Too much of a dollar of tax credits does not go for actual housing expenses. Many in the industry do not really care about poor people.

In addition, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program is both inefficient and ineffective. Inefficient for the reasons cited above plus a hugely complicated program. Ineffective because the program does not house poor people who need it the most. Tenants still must pay a $400-$600 monthly rent. Homeless people need not apply.

If the traditional public housing program was allowed the same per unit expenditures and site location it would have been a more efficient and effective housing program. Unfortunately, anything that smacks of public involvement is frowned upon these days. Written by Paul Dribin

Great Groups in St. Louis

This blog tends to focus on the problems going on in St. Louis. Today I want to write about organizations doing really positive work to improve the community and the lives of people. Here are the groups:

1. Beyond Housing- This organization led by a brilliant and dynamic President, Chris Krehmeyer is doing amazing work. They are most active in the area around the Normandy School District doing total community development though the 24:1 program. Efforts include housing, a movie theatre, health facilities, a bank, matching funds for college and many other program. This organization goes about community development the right way.

2.Better Family Life-This organization located in north St. Louis is focused on housing, financial literacy, credit building, and housing counseling. They are the only community based organization I know that is attempting to resolve the violence on the streets of North St. Louis.

3. DeSales Housing Development Corporation- This organization has been successful for years in developing and rehabilitating housing in the Benton Park area and providing a wholistic approach to community development.

4. Rise- This non profit has worked for years to build and rehabilitate affordable housing throughout St. Louis and to provide support and technical assistance to non profits.

5. Justine Petersen Housing Corporation- This organization provides micro loans to small businesses, credit counseling, and provides sources of financing and saving to people who do not have a regular relationship with a bank or poor credit.

6. St. Louis City Acadamy- This private school provides a world class education to mostly low income African American students in the City of St. Louis. All the students receive scholarships.

7. Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls- This charter school led by Mary Stillman provides STEM education to girls regardless of economic background. They have now begun their high school program.

8, Boys Hope/Girls Hope- BHGH provides a 24 hour living environment and education to academically strong students from a difficult background who would benefit from a change in living conditions. The scholars are provided with 24:7 support, attend regular high schools, and most of them go to and succeed in college.

I am sure there are other worthy organizations but these are the ones for which I am familiar. Written by Paul Dribin

The Beneficial Effects of Low Income Housing Tax Credits

I read some “scholarly” research today on the effect of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) on neighborhood stability. Some earlier research had suggested that LIHTC projects had a negative effect on low income communities. This study showed a very slight positive effect. This to me is faint praise. Affordable housing has been billed as transformative. Lives are clearly not being transformed by these programs, at best they are somewhat stabilized. Maybe that is all they can accomplish. They should not however be oversold. Written by Paul Dribin

St. Louis as a Tech City

The New York Times published an article stating that angel investors are looking at Midwest cities as Good locations for tech startups. This can only bode well for St. Louis which has a flourishing tech startup industry. Some good news for our city. Written by Paul Dribin

State low Income Housing Tax Credits Again

Tony Messinger wrote a very powerful article today about the abuse of this tax credit program in Missouri. I have mixed emotions in response to his article. He is spot on that the program is inefficient and helps developers, lawyers, accountants, syndicator, bankers, and consultants get rich. Too little of the dollars generated by the program actually go to hard units of housing. I have been to many housing conferences in recent years where the subject could be soybeans, or pork futures. The participants do not care about poor people and affordable housing. I had unsuccessfully tried to get their interest in the work of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, but the group’s only concern had been tax credits.

On the other hand, the tax credit program is the only one there is for construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing. The program needs to be reformed, not eliminated. We also need to develop other tools for building affordable housing. Written by Paul Dribin

Trolley Follies Again

This story just gets worse. Les Sherman, President of the Trolley Group has now said they need $500,000 or the trolley will be never begin. This is worse than a fiasco, it is borderline insane. What makes anyone think people will want to ride this thing. To add to the woes, I now hear concerns about security.

Comparisons are made to the success of the trolley in Kansas City. In KC, the trolley is a popular means for taking people from downtown to Westport for lunch etc. That is a popular destination, something we do not have. Furthermore, Kansas City does not have a light rail, so the trolley serves as a means of transportation. Written by Paul Dribin

State of Missouri Low Income Housing Tax Credits

Well the hammer has dropped. The Missouri Housing Development Commission. (MHDC) board voted today to eliminate the State Affordable Housing Tax Credits. These credits have been used in conjunction with federal affordable credits, historic credits, and other forms of subsidy and equity to build and rehabilitate affordable housing in Missouri. Governor Grietens has been pushing to eliminate these credits since he has taken office.

This action will make affordable housing in Missouri more difficult to accomplish. There will be fewer deals and less affordable rents. The state credit appears expensive in a simplistic way, but in terms of jobs creation and long term housing affordability it is critical.

There has been significant criticism of the multitude of state tax credits in Missouri. The reason for this is the unreliability of the state legislative process an the subsequent uncertainty to housing investors. My mild criticism of the industry for a long time has been that we are too reliant on tax credits and need to develop alternative sources of funding. Written by Paul Dribin

Blues Practice Facility Again

Tony Messenger wrote today in the Post that the Blues practice in Creve Coeur Park is not a dead deal. What is going on? The feds will never allow this to happen. Does anyone agree with me that the Economic Development leadership in St. Louis County should be fired. They have been totally dishonest about the whole transaction. When will this nonsense end? Written by Paul Dribin

Health Care and Housing

More research is showing that good health outcomes are dependent on decent housing. We know that people who live in-substandard housing are more likely to have health problems, more frequently get admitted to emergency rooms. Excessive hospital stays for uninsured people drive up health care costs significantly. Hospitals are beginning to partner with housing professionals to find decent housing for frequent fliers to hospitals. I hope this starts to happen in St. Louis. Written by Paul Dribin

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