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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “affordable housing”

Indirect Costs to Housing

When we talk about the lack of affordable housing we usually ponder about the lack of enough development programs, section 8 subsidy etc. These are all valid concerns. Another major problem is the artificial constraints we put on housing.

We are well aware of these constraints but usually don’t tie them into the affordability of housing. Some of these issues are zoning which does not allow for density, large minimum lot sizes, resistance to any sort of apartments, sidewalk requirements, density, and historic preservation.

A perfect storm of these barriers is the City of St. Louis. Who is not in favor of historic preservation but in St. Louis, cost knows no boundaries. The cost of developing a Low Income Housing Tax Credit unit in St. Louis is $250000. That is absurd. How many working class people are priced out of housing due to these requirements. Virtually every neighborhood in St Louis is considered historic.

Another example is Portland Oregon. About 20 years ago they issued a no growth boundary in an effort to curb sprawl. The result? The housing market became one of the least affordable in the country. Portland is now attempting all kinds of superhuman subsidy programs to stimulate housing. Ending the no growth barrier would do far more. Written by Paul Dribin

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Evictions

There are major new research efforts ongoing that focus on evictions. I see this becoming the next social justice issue. Some people claim the volume of evictions is greater than ever. I don’t know how that claim can be made.

Evictions are bad for both the tenant and landlord. Focusing on eviction as the problem would be like focusing on stopping death or some terrible illness. Most evictions are justified. The problem is poverty and poor life choices rather than focusing on some mechanical solution to evictions like mediation etc. By the time a case gets to eviction it is a lost cause.

Poverty plays a major role in evictions but not always the way one would think. If poverty was the sole cause, public housing where tenants pay almost no rent would have a lower rate of eviction. In fact the rate is higher. Families that are traumatized, poor, and who make poor choices have the greatest chance of losing their unit. Anything that creates restrictions for landlords will simply drive up the rent for other tenants. Written by Paul Dribin

Fair Housing Law

nyti.ms/2v3uF8n

Former Vice President Walter Mondale presents an excellent discussion on the federal Fair Housing Law of 1968 which was intended to outlaw racial discrimination and segregation in housing. Mr. Mondale presents some very accurate points about the serious flaws in implementing the law by the federal bureaucracy including HUD where I worked. The political consequences are still strong for politicians who support open housing. We do know that living in safe neighborhoods with good schools is the number one things a poor family can do to improve their lives. Written by Paul Dribin

A bad racist housing program

www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/04/rent-to-own-redlining/557588/

This article itemizes a new form of land contract housing sales. It preys on African American people of limited means and marginal credit. People pay monthly but title to the property does not transfer until after a long number of years. The potential buyers build no equity and if they miss a payment they are out with no equity to show for it. These programs were used for blockbusting in Chicago when I grew up. Written by Paul Drib in

Public Housing

nyti.ms/2GP5dZS

An editorial from NYT about the state of public housing in New York City and resignation of Executive Director. All housing authorities are suffering from a lack of federal support. Rents can’t come close to covering rent. The tenants are very poor and need much support. Many of the same problems are brewing in St. Louis and all over the country. Written by Paul Dribin

Development Subsidies in St. Louis

The Post-Dispatch today headlined an article which stated that the City of St. Louis gave away through TIFs and tax abatement $30 million instead of $17 million. This article is not written to question the error but the huge amount of subsidies St. Louis provides to developers. I know the city is not by itself always a strong market, but the level of subsidies appears out of whack.

There is not enough targeting of incentives by the city. TIFs were intended to be used in economically distressed areas, not everywhere. When the use of block grant funds to write down development costs is added to the pile, the situation gets uglier. Efforts need to be made to make the development process easier and ease off of some of the onerous historic preservation rules. Written by Paul Dribin

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is of course the international organization that does a great job of providing affordable housing for working poor families. The vehicle is a sweat equity program in which members of the community and the ultimate purchasers of the home work together. The loan is at 0% rate of interest.

An friend of mine had a constructive criticism of the program with which I agree. Groups now have to pay significant sums of money for the privilege of working on a house. This leaves out small groups and well intentioned individuals who cannot pay these fees. I am sure this program has raised huge sums of money for Habitat, but it has lost a little of its charitable purpose. The corporate world has taken over this program just like it has everything else. Written by Paul Dribin

City of St. Louis Affordable Housing Trust Fund

I have written previously about the City of St. Louis Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It is a fund that is derived from out of state taxes paid in St. Louis and supposed to be used for affordable housing efforts. For years money has been siphoned for other purposes.

The city has passed a sales tax for metro link expansion(which is an ill conceived idea). Half of the funds are to be used for other community based needs. Housing advocates are lobbying the city to use the funds to expand affordable housing efforts. I strongly agree with this effort and urge readers to lobby city officials in this regard. Written by Paul Dribin

Pagedale. Missouri

Pagedale is a tiny mostly African American community in north St. Louis County. The community has a history of corruption and poor living conditions.

Beyond Housing has been active in Pagedale for some time and is making some positive contributions to the community including housing,economic development, and social services. This process of improvement is difficult and slow.

St. Louis Magazine recently published an article about the situation in Pagedale which highlights the corruption and forwards some criticisms of Beyond Housing. I consider the article to be counterproductive, rehashing old news, gossip, and negativity. Too bad. No good deed goes unpunished. Written by Paul Dribin

St. Patricks Center

I wanted to write today about the amazing work being accomplished by St. Patricks Center, the largest provider of homeless services in Missouri. I am privileged to offer some help as a volunteer to the organization.

St Patricks of course provides a men’s shelter and meals. More important they provide a whole network of social, housing, and supportive services to help end homelessness. They operate permanent housing communities and provide a whole range of supportive services. Their facility even provides a job incubator.

The Executive Director of St. Patricks Center is Laurie Phillips who is a remarkably talented and caring person. St. Louis is luckily to have this organization. Written by Paul Dribin

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