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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “fair housing”

HUD to Defund Fair Housing Grants in Missouri

Missouri passed a law about six months ago which made filing a discrimination or fair housing complaint more difficult. Many in the know advised against it primarily for moral reasons, but also because of the potential for lawsuits and possibility of listing federal funding. Well, the predictions have come true. HUD has written that if the law is not changed by March 2018 federal funding for fair housing enforcement will be terminated. That is because the state law is no longer “substantially equivalent” to the federal law. It would be just deserts if Amazon opted not to come here due to our redneck ways. Written by Paul Dribin

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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

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

How Cities Can Promote Affordable Housing

How Housing Matters has an article about the above referenced subject. They point to an issue that I have frequently pointed out, zoning, land use, lack of density make affordable housing more difficult to do. Interestingly, the article shows that inclusionary zoning, a darling of the academic elite and the Urban Land Institute, has little effect even in those rare places where it is approved. Written by Paul Dribin

Copy of article from How Housing Matters:

How Can Cities Produce More Affordable Housing?

August 03, 2017

Though cities have recovered from the 2008 recession, housing market trends have created new burdens. Gentrification has taken the form of “new build” housing in recent years, and the demand for housing in formerly depressed neighborhoods has skyrocketed—as have rents. Meanwhile, wages for low- and moderate-income families are stagnant, and federal subsidies for affordable housing have declined. In their article, Lance Freeman and Jenny Schuetz describe housing (particularly rental) affordability in rising markets, review strategies and policies addressing assistance for poor households in inner cities, and provide suggestions for more effective and sustainable affordable housing policies. They present the idea that for any policy tackling housing affordability to be successful, it must take a holistic approach that bridges human development and housing. They urge supporting neighborhoods, schools, crime, and other factors that affect quality of life, in addition to housing, to effectively and sustainably produce affordable housing.

Key findings

The most widely used policies that address housing affordability, such as inclusionary zoning, have produced few affordable units and do not help much with overall housing affordability. The authors found that in the areas they studied, inclusionary zoning produced less than 0.1 percent of the affordable housing stock. A better understanding of why this is depends on recording better data on these programs.
Cities and counties should reduce regulatory burdens of development to reduce the cost of new housing.
Local governments should increase zoning density limits to allow for the production of small, low-cost units.
Local governments and nonprofits working on housing affordability need to attract and use private funding. This will help create an economically diverse housing stock, which is important for labor markets to function and for family and community well-being.

What Will Get Young People to St. Louis

I read an article last week touting Pittsburgh as the next great place to live. What would earn St. Louis that status?

Despite all my griping about St. Louis I know it is a great place to live. What are the key positive attributes?

1. A lot to do. Great cultural, sports, and dining opportunities. We are more in a league with Chicago rather than Omaha when it comes to cultural activities.

2. Affordable housing. The median housing price is much less than in most big cities. Young couple could get more for their dollar and save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.

3. Easy to get around- This speaks for itself. You will not need to commute for hours to get to work or school.

4. Top institutions of higher education

Negatives

1. Crime

2. Racial intolerance- Businesses want an open and accepting work and cultural climate for their employees. St. Louis has a long way to go to achieve this goal.

3. A proliferation of small governments-Our system of governance is too expensive, inefficient, and fosters exclusion.

4. Climate-The weather is horrible in the summer and still cold in the winter. Spring and fall are great.

Almost everyone who visits St. Louis likes it. We should develop a program to bring recent college graduates or college senior to town for a weekend to sell them on settling here. We have a lot to offer, and most of the country is unaware of us. Written by Paul Dribin

Urban Development and Privilege

Much has been written recently about the concept of white privilege. I  find the term somewhat offensive because it makes people defensive. Nevertheless, the concept is true

There are a couple areas of middle class privilege that contribute negatively to the well being of communities.   The first is the mortgage interest deductions. This deduction primarily helps higher income people, and artificially drives up the price of housing. Working class people who do not itemize are hurt. This by the way is the biggest housing subsidy. A tax credit targeted to working class people would be more effective

A second set of privileges cover zoning and planning laws in our communities. These laws tend to zone out smaller and more affordable housing and Multifamily housing. I am not talking about housing homeless people but teachers social workers, nurses etc.    

The results of these policies are unnecessary segregation , a lack of mobility, and urban decline.  Written by paul Dribin

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