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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “gentrification”

Designing a More Inclusive City

A way for St. Louis to prosper is to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible. An article I just read in the New Yok Times describes how often through subtle measures we exclude people. An example the author cited was the lack of comfortable seating in public spaces. These measures of course by themselves are not game changers but are part of an overall package that make cities appealing. Written by a 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

Air B&B and Affordable Housing

Housing activists in some communities have complained that Air B&B has caused a decline in affordable housing. Is this true for St. Louis? I doubt it. After all the Air B&B program takes mostly rooms from mostly houses that are otherwise inhabited. If full apartments are rented they were probably not in the affordable rental category. Written by Paul Dribin

Historic Tax Credits for Residential Use

The St. Louis Business Journal had a poll today which appeared critical of State Historic Tax Credits being used on residential properties. These credits are part of the state program which is used primarily on apartments and commercial buildings.

If used properly, the credits can help rejuvenate historic neighborhoods and preserve housing. The criticism seems to be that sometimes people who use these credits don’t need them. A simple solution would be to means test the program so that only households who need the credits will use them. 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

Urban Homesteading

I wanted to write again about Urban Homesteading, a program which I believe would be transformative for St. Louis and other communities. My previous work with this program in Milwaukee inspires my vision.

St. Louis has lots of vacant boarded houses in city possession. Urban Homesteading would allow for the transfer of these houses to individuals and families who agree to live in the houses and rehabilitate them to code. Title would transfer to the homesteader after successful completion of the rehabilitation. Some important caveats:

1. The rehab would need to be completed by professional contractors approved by the city. Sweat equity does not work in these situations.

2. The families selected for the program must be working and pass a screening. This will not work for people with significant social problems.

3. The properties must be carefully selected. They should be as close together as possible, and in a condition that allows for rehab.

St. Louis is working hard to attract young people to the city. This program can significantly help that effort.

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