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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”

`Is There a Way St. Louis Can Grow Because our Cost of Living is Reasonable

I just read an article which states the obvious, high end workers will move to places such as San Francisco or Boston to take advantage of the higher paying jobs. Regular people, both professional and blue collar cannot make that move due to the extremely high cost of housing in those locations.

St. Louis needs to figure out a way to harness our pluses; an affordable cost of living and world class cultural attractions. I think that is a big deal. I would even suggest flying recent college graduates here for a weekend to show them our pluses. Pittsburgh is an example of a city I considered to be much like St. Louis that repositioned itself as a trendy place.

The big negative in St. Louis is the crime situation. Virtually everyone except civil rights activists feel it is the number one problem facing the city. Few people seem willing to acknowledge this issue. Written by Paul Dribin

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Gentrification and Urban Development

Gentrification tends to have a negative connotation with urban development junkies. Their basic premise is that higher income people move into improving neighborhoods and drive out the indigenous peoples. I have read in recent publications gentrification referred to as fascist or even compared to the army driving native Americans off tribal lands. Yet isn’t it a good thing if young people with money are willing to move into previously dangerous neighborhoods? Would St. Louis be better off with more gentrification?

For St. Louis I would argue, bring on more gentrification, we don’t have enough of it. In what neighborhoods have development activities driven out previous residents? We actually have too little gentrification. As an ideal, development efforts must include providing affordable housing and rehab funds for existing low income residents. In reality, this is hard to do. A hot market ends up driving all activity and resources for development of affordable housing are scarce. Certainly a certain number of jobs should be set aside for neighborhood residents. If we waited for the ideal conditions to develop, there would never be any neighborhood development. Written by Paul Dribin

One Way in Which St. Louis is Like California

California has just passed new legislation for creating more affordable housing. It is a drop in the bucket of what is needed but a good start. The reasons for the California housing crisis are many. An overheated economy and lack of supply help explain the problem. The lack of supply is predominantly due to restrictions on height and density, and extremely involved zoning laws restricting multifamily development.

St. Louis does not have an overheated economy but still suffers from unnecessary restrictions. I point to the historic preservation requirements in the City of St. Louis as a significant barrier to affordable housing. The suburbs have zoning laws which require low density and policies against the development of multifamily housing. Changes in zoning and land use will not alone create the conditions for affordable housing but it certainly would help. Written by Paul Dribin

Don Roe

I am giving a shout out today to a great guy, the Planning Director for the City of St. Louis, Don Roe. I have known him for years to be a great and highly competent guy. He has had to exercise enormous tact and patience working with neighborhood groups, high level city officials, and the myriad and Byzantine policies of the City of St. Louis. When I worked for HUD he was always the go to guy to get things done. Written by Paul Dribin

Again Healthcare and Housing

Housing and healthcare are one and the same. I don’t need to restate the obvious; people with poor housing options tend to be less healthy, and people who are less healthy tend to live in substandard housing.

I am putting some ideas together to address this. Think of this scenario which often happens. A patient cannot be released from the hospital in a timely manner because they are homeless. The daily cost in the hospital is $3000. Wouldn’t it make sense for hospitals to subsidize the rent for these individuals and get supportive services for them? A second issue. Many readmissions to hospitals could be avoided if people lived in decent housing. As I said, I will be putting a project together to address this. Paul Dribin

Landlord Lockouts

Tony Messenger had a good article in the Post today about a subject of which I had been aware but needed reminding. That is a situation that is common in St. Louis and probably elsewhere; landlord lockouts and illegal evictions.

What happens is that a tenant who is behind on their rent discovers their apartment is padlocked and they cannot gain entry. A second scenario might involve their possessions being put on the sidewalk. These intimidation techniques often result in the tenant leaving on their own and forfeiting their security deposit. Of course in Missouri as in all states there is a judicial process which involves a court hearing if the tenant requests it.

In St. Louis such actions are not criminal offenses. The board of aldermen is attempting to pass an ordinance criminalizing this behavior. I would like to see huge fines imposed on landlords in these situations for their greedy behavior. Ironically, the courts will always rule in the landlord’s favor if the tenant is behind on their rent. Most landlords, particularly the larger ones do not engage in this behavior. Written by Paul Dribin

Character Based Loans

I read an article today in Shelterforce Weekly which talked about “Character Based Loans”. This type of loan would be made by a financial institution to individuals who did not quite meet up to credit standards but had good character, whatever that means. As the article points out, loans of this nature used to be made all the time in a racially discriminatory manner, never to people of color. It seems to me this program is simply grasping at straws to get people into homeownership who do not deserve it.

With my work at HUD, I can say with certainty that bad credit scores were a strong predictor of failure. Loan officers should and do consider mitigating circumstances but cannot overlook really bad credit. Written by Paul Dribin

Weird Things About City Development

Paul Krugman published an article in the New York Times which made sense. He argued that cities have not grown in a rational way because cities either allowed helter skelter development or engaged in NIMBY policies. Houston is an example of the former and San Francisco the latter. More publicity needs to be given to the discriminatory effects of exclusionary zoning in many communities.

Interesting St. Louis City seems to engage in both types of negative behavior. The city will give away the store to certain large developers but hound to death small developers with historic preservation requirements. A better balance is needed. Written by Paul Dribin

Vouchers and Housing Policy

Research clearly shows that poor people who move to a more affluent neighborhood do better in life. Unfortunately most affordable housing in St. Louis and elsewhere is constructed in lower income neighborhoods. HUD, under the Obama administration had tried to address this problem.

Up until now, Section 8 fair market rents were set for an entire metropolitan area. Therefore the rent structure in Wellston was the same as in Ladue. On an initial limited basis, HUD is changing the policy and determining fair market rent by zip code, therefore allowing higher rents in more affluent areas. Where tested, the concept has seemed to work.

To be sure, the policy has detractors. Housing authorities complain the policy is too bureaucratic. Housing practitioners are concerned that the policy if fully implemented would drain inner city neighborhoods of population and good tenants. These are both valid issues, but I believe the policy should be tried. The Trump administration unfortunately is eliminating the new rule that would implement it. Written by Paul Dribin

NIMBY in Webster Groves

Lutheran Senior Services a great senior housing provider had proposed constructing a 50 unit tax credit affordable housing project on their campus in Webster Groves, where I live, a suburb of St. Louis. The community once again reacted harshly, opposing the project for all the usual reasons, noise, density etc, even though it would be part of an existing campus and hardly noticed. In 2004 I was hired by Lutheran Senior to help develop a 202 low income senior project with the same results. People in our community attend church on a regular basis but don’t seem to get the message. Written by Paul Dribin

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