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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the month “July, 2018”

Another Update on Biddle House

I was at Biddle House today as usual on Tuesdays, to help serve lunch. The facility was vacant as the City of St. Louis is taking over and changing furniture etc. Hopefully services will not be disrupted. I do not have confidence the city can carry out this program until the permanent operator, Home Full takes over in the fall. Written by Paul Dribin

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HOPE VI Did Not Meet Expectations?

HOPE VI was a HUD program to totally revamp public housing projects with a mixture of public, affordable, market rate housing, economic development, and social programs. The idea was to revitalize communities, offer a better living environment for tenants, and improve outcomes for low income individuals. An article now shows that far fewer housing units were actually completed under HOPE VI than announced. This is probably not surprising since actual financing and construction will bring more accurate results. My concern is that the program spent billions of dollars and did not achieve the results I described above. I worked on the Darst Webbe HOPE VI project here in St. Louis. It razed some bad public housing and significantly reduced crime in the surrounding neighborhoods. I doubt it had any important effects on the public housing residents and has not resulted in significant mixed income housing. Written by Paul Dribin. Attached is the article.

2018

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Study Finds “Selective Memory Planning” by HUD in the HOPE VI Program

A study published in Housing Policy Debate, “Broken Promises or Selective Memory Planning? A National Picture of HOPE VI Plans and Realities” by Lawrence Vale, Shomon Shamsuddin, and Nicholas Kelly finds that significantly fewer housing units, particularly market-rate rental and homeownership units, were developed in HOPE VI projects than were initially announced in HOPE VI award announcements. The study contends that HUD’s monitoring of HOPE VI represented “selective memory planning,” in which policy-makers ignore or erase the memory of initial plans and goals in favor of new plans and goals that are more likely to be achieved.

“Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere” (HOPE VI) was a HUD program to redevelop distressed public housing into mixed income communities with a combination of public, affordable, and market-rate housing for both renters and owners. The study’s authors compared the number of units, unit-type mix, and tenure initially announced in HOPE VI award announcements with estimates later entered into HUD’s administrative system for tracking projects’ progress based on revised plans. They also compared the award announcements with actual housing units completed. The authors conducted interviews with HUD staff to gain insight into their decisions.

The projected number of units in HUD award announcements was 11,600 higher than the revised counts eventually entered into HUD’s administrative system for program tracking. The revised estimates were 10% lower than the proposed units initially announced. The revised estimates of expected market-rate units were 29% lower and the revised estimates of expected homeownership units were 40% lower than the initial award announcements. This finding suggests that public housing agencies (PHAs) found market-rate housing and homeownership more difficult to achieve in HOPE VI projects than initially expected.

If a developer had to lower the expected number of housing units or change the unit-type and tenure mix after an award announcement, the new numbers were recorded in HUD’s administrative system. The system did not record the numbers initially proposed in the award announcement. The result is that it may appear a HOPE VI project produced the proposed number of units, unit-type mix, and tenure when the final outcome was less than what was promised in the initial award announcement.

The authors note that, on the other hand, it is reasonable that expected outcomes expressed in award announcements would change as the PHAs would often put projects out to bid to developers and complete financing after the award was announced. Most housing professionals understand that initial project proposals often change before construction begins because of development complexities. Expectations change as knowledge or circumstances change. On the other hand, residents may not understand this and see award announcements as promises to them and their communities.

HUD essentially “forgot” its initial award announcements, the authors contend. The report suggests that by engaging in selective memory planning, HUD prioritized its accountability to Congress and developers over its accountability to communities by comparing outcomes to revised expectations rather than comparing outcomes to the promises made to the community in the initial announcements.

“Broken Promises or Selective Memory Planning? A National Picture of HOPE VI Plans and Realities

The Future of Biddle House

As you know, I have written in the past that the operation of Biddle House will soon change. This facility owned by the city houses homeless men overnight and provides meals and supportive services to anyone who wants it. The operators of Biddle House, St. Patricks Center and St. Peter’s and Paul are pulling out. The facility will be run by Home Full, a successful homeless provider from Dayton Ohio.

Under Home Full, Biddle House will change its’ programming. They will now only provide meals and other services to individuals residing in the overnight program. This to me seems to be a small retreat from a full range of homeless services. Written by Paul Dribin

Biddle House Will Scale Back One-Stop Homeless Services Under New Provider | News Blog

Starting next week, the city’s primary homeless shelter, Biddle House, will drop services for people not staying overnight. The services, which currently include lunch for…
— Read on www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2018/07/27/biddle-house-will-scale-back-one-stop-homeless-services-under-new-provider

Trump administration doing nothing to increase affordable housing

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an excellent article from New York Times

Lesbian Couple Denied Admission

A lesbian couple was denied admission to a Friendship Village Senior Living Facility in the St. Louis area. The complex management claimed it conflicted with the religious beliefs of the community. Unfortunately, there are no laws in Missouri protecting this couple. Written by Paul Dribin

Inside New York Public Housing

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An excellent New York Times article about the challenges of running the New York City Housing Authority. As some of you know, HUD funding for capital needs has been hugely insufficient to address the needs of older units. Written by Paul Dribin

Airport Privatization

The St. Louis Business Journal has reported that the City of St. Louis was warned that their airport privatization advisors were incentivized to push to privatize the airport. The reason for this is they would only be paid if the privatization is successful. Seems logical to me. The airport privatization reminds me of a family that sells their household furniture to pay the monthly bills. Written by Paul Dribin

County Economic Development Partnership Defies County Council

The St. Louis County Economic Development Partnership did not show up for hearings looking into questionable contracting practices and favoritism. Interestingly, the FBI may be involved in investigations.

I have written before about what a cesspool this organization is. The Post-Dispatch pointed out that a friend of Stenger’s was pushed on the Lemay Housing Partnership even though he was a convicted felon. This whole story is getting quite interesting. Attached is a copy of the Post article. Written by Paul Dribin

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CLAYTON • Members of the St. Louis County Council said Tuesday they may issue subpoenas in their investigation of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and St. Louis County Port Authority, after representatives of those groups did not show up Tuesday afternoon for the council’s ethics hearing.

And two members of the council suggested in an open meeting that the federal government may be looking into the agencies, as well.

The council has been investigating the agencies’ procurement policies and real estate transactions after Post-Dispatch stories raising questions about their contracting procedures. The Port Authority controls a significant pot of money derived from annual lease payments of some $5 million from the River City Casino in Lemay. It is staffed by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

Council members Ernie Trakas and Sam Page said in comments during the meeting that each had been told by sources that about two weeks ago, Sheila Sweeney, the partnership’s chief executive officer, enlisted county police officers to check out a vehicle tailing her.

“When St. Louis County police stopped the subject vehicle, they were advised that the occupants were, in fact, federal agents,” Trakas said. Page said he’d heard the same thing.

Pressed by several reporters after the meeting, neither Trakas nor Page would reveal their sources. Each said he had just one source; Page said he did not think they were the same person. Trakas said his source was “impeccable” but that he had “assured the person who told me that his identity was safe with me.” Asked how close his source was to the information, Trakas said he was “not going to go there.”

In a brief interview as he left a meeting in progress, County Executive Steve Stenger said about Trakas’ claim: “I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s the case. I think we would have heard about that. I don’t think that’s correct.”

Cordell Whitlock, a Stenger spokesman, noted that his boss is facing a Democratic primary race against challenger Mark Mantovani on Aug. 7. He said it was “highly irresponsible two weeks before an election for (Trakas) to just throw that out there and throw Sheila under the bus like that.”

Neither Sweeney nor the partnership’s spokeswoman, Katy Jamboretz, could be reached for comment. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen did not respond to a text request for comment.

The allegations of a federal probe came at the council’s regular meeting, hours after the council’s ethics committee had held its second hearing into the partnership and port. The committee had invited six members of the port authority to testify.

One of those board members, Greg Hayden, told the Post-Dispatch last week that he had agreed to testify about $50,000 the port gave to a nonprofit housing organization in Lemay to hire a friend of Stenger for a marketing contract. But Hayden didn’t show, and in a brief phone call, directed a reporter to his attorney, Jim Wyrsch, who declined to comment.

The rest of the Port Authority got lawyers, too. Charles W. Hatfield, with Stinson Leonard Street, wrote a letter on Friday to Trakas, the ethics committee chairman, saying the port’s six board members had other commitments, and needed “more clarity” about the investigation’s purpose. An inquiry into the port’s “operations and practices” would be “extremely broad,” Hatfield wrote.

Hatfield’s colleague, Andrew Scavotto, appeared at the ethics hearing and told council members that the Port Authority wanted to talk to the council in an “appropriate forum.”

Several council members responded that any discussion should be held in public.

“The committee invited your clients, sir, to appear,” Trakas told Scavotto. “It’s my understanding based on Mr. Hatfield’s letter that your advice was for them not to appear. … I think this is an appropriate forum, sir. I think you and your firm are the only ones that don’t.”

The Post-Dispatch reported last week that after the Lemay Housing Partnership saw its funding cut by two-thirds in 2016, its board chairman met with Hayden and an assistant to Stenger. Stenger recommended the organization hire the husband of his former legislative aide, even though he had just finished probation for two counts of stealing from a campaign.

The council has also said it wants to know more about a land deal with Stenger donors in Wellston, the failed effort to build a St. Louis Blues practice facility in Creve Coeur Lake Park, and land transfers for a police substation in south St. Louis County.

Page said he is also seeking records related to a $422,000 infrastructure consulting contract the Port Authority awarded to Accenture, a project that also paid out $50,000 in associated legal fees to the law firm of Stenger donor Bob Blitz.

Whether the port authority board even exists remained an open question on Tuesday. Last week, the council voted 6-1 to override a Stenger veto on a bill requiring the removal of any member of the county {span id=”0.8800033719184834” class=”currentHitHighlight”}port {span id=”0.5504816958906129” class=”highlight”} authority whose term has expired. That would be all six of the members, but Stenger said the charter allows board members to retain their seats until replacements are appointed.

On Tuesday, Page called for legislation that would allow the County Council to name its own port board members.


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The Future of Biddle House

We have been following the ongoing saga of Biddle House. As you may know, St. Patricks Center who has been operating it has pulled out due to significant losses. An organization based in Dayton Ohio called Home Full will be operating the facility. They are very highly regarded in Dayton. We wish them well. It will be interesting to see how they function in the St. Louis environment. Written by Paul Dribin

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