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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”

Green lining in St. Louis

I heard a talk today at one of the many marginally useful meetings on vacancies in St.Louis. The discussion was about green lining, an effort to artificially prop up property sales by financing the gap between appraised value and total development costs on single family houses.

The issue as presented seems dubious; that tons of people are waiting to do major rehab to houses on the north side who can’t get the appraisal they would need. The green lining program would put together a pool of institutional funding that would provide second mortgages to fund the appraisal gap.

There are several problems with this approach. The first problem is that the homebuyers would immediately be under water. What if they want to sell the property and cannot pay off the mortgage. Second, the proposal does not address credit issues which I think are a bigger problem than appraisals. The program should go all the way and guarantee the purchaser’s equity. But the real issue is creating demand in an area with high crime and poor schools. Written by Paul Dribin

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McKee Again

The Paul McKee effort on the north side of St. Louis appears to be going nowhere. I have been a fan of Mr. McKee and was impressed with his work at Winghaven in St. Charles County. I still believe him to be a sincere person.

The project he tried to undertake in St. Louis may have been too big for anyone to handle and he faced obstacles of community and political resistance. He certainly made his share of mistakes, especially in not engaging the community in a better manner. Nevertheless, he has not lived up to his commitment, has rehabbed almost no houses, and has needed the Geospatial Project buying out his properties to save him. Too bad. Written by Paul Dribin

The Real Cause of Vacancies in St. Louis

At the suggestion of Todd Swanstrom, I read a book by his colleague titled Housing Dynamics in Northeast Ohio by Thomas E. Bier. The book written about the Cleveland area is also applicable to St. Louis and many other cities.

The argument in the book backed by data is that vacancies occur when there is an oversupply of housing in the region. This oversupply of housing occurs because developers are looking to profit by building more housing, and land is cheaper in the suburbs. The author points out that when there is an oversupply the oldest, most worn out housing loses all market desirability and becomes vacant. The problem is made worse because developers can more economically build in the suburbs and the infrastructure in the suburbs is stronger.

This plays out when we look at the north side of St. Louis. There will only be a turnaround if the city figures out how to streamline its development requirements, crime is controlled, and schools turn around. In addition a marketing campaign to young people around the company would help. We could offer free housing and lots of land. Written by Paul Dribin

Housing in Ferguson

One of the issues surrounding the Michael Brown shooting and its’ aftermath were the poor conditions of affordable housing projects in Ferguson. In fact, the Ferguson Commission raised the issue.

Recently the owners of several of these housing developments and the St. Louis County Housing Authority have cracked down on bad tenants. Lo and behold the community is up in arms about people facing eviction. Once again no one wants to take responsibility for bad behavior. Bad tenants are bad tenants, period. Written by Paul Dribin

Container Houses

The Post recently wrote of a couple in Old North St. Louis who are building a house consisting of storage containers. As long as the housing meets code, why not? The sad part of the story is that lenders are not willing to make mortgage loans on the north side. Isn’t that redlining? Written by Paul Dribin

Poor People and Middle Class Housing

Local activists are missing the boat as usual. They complain about any effort on the part of the city to support middle income and upper income development. The city has too little of this population. Any efforts to improve the lives of poor people also requires middle class people to migrate into the city. Efforts to only help poor people are short sighted. Written by Paul Dribin

St. Louis Housing Summit

Today, 9/21, I attended a housing summit here in St. Louis at Christ Church Cathedral downtown. The idea of the summit was to start to build a coalition to develop more affordable housing in St. Louis and end homelessness. There were approximately 300 people in attendance including some homeless people. The speakers were good, enthusiasm high. Let’s hope for the best. Written by Paul Dribin

Update on Paul McKee and Northside Project

Little is happening in this arena. KWMU came upon a renegotiation agreement that requires relatively little of the northside group to keep the deal going. As I have said, I know McKee and consider him an honorable purchase. I think he has been squeezed by too many parties in the city. Written by Paul Dribin

Gentrification?

Professor Todd Swanstrom wrote a wonderful article that I read in Urban Observatory. In that article he very intelligently took apart much of the misinformation in St. Louis. Advocates have decried any effort at city development that does not specifically address poor people. They complain that gentrification is moving poor people out of the central corridor and the Tower Grove area. Professor Swanstrom points out the data does not support this assumption. True gentrification requires a substantial increase in housing costs that drive out poor people. This is not happening in St. Louis. The contrary problem has taken place; depopulation of many areas of the city.

You would think we would welcome development with open arms. Oh well!

The Biggest Cause of Housing Unaffordability

I run into issues affecting housing affordability every day. The simplest and also most difficult problems are the land use and zoning restrictions that unnecessarily drive up the cost of housing and or limit or ban the construction of apartments. Some of these decisions are things such as:

1. Banning of small houses

2. Minimum lot sizes that require a large expenditure on land.

3. Banning of manufactured housing.

4. Excessive road widths and sidewalk requirements

5. Inefficient inspection processes.

6. Banning of apartments

These are not sexy issues and are often overlooked. Each one of them makes housing less affordable. Written by Paul Dribin

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