The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “historic preservation”

Increasingly Whites are moving to Historically Black Neighborhoods

www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/27/upshot/diversity-housing-maps-raleigh-gentrification.html

An interesting article from the New York Times. Sort of a form of gentrification. Values will increase which is good for residents but historic nature of neighborhoods will change. We are seeing some of this in north Webster Groves. Written by Paul Dribin

This article talks around the vacancy issue

www.stltoday.com/opinion/columnists/st-louis-has-a-plan-for-vacancy/article_039ec2ca-751d-5451-b039-f6f60baa239d.html

what is a chief resiliency officer?

Historic Preservation

I recognize the importance of historic preservation in cities. Nevertheless here are my criticisms of how it works in St. Louis:

1. Virtually every neighborhood in St. Louis is considered historic. There seems to be a feeling that if a property is old, it is historic. This is not true.

2., Historic rehab adds 10% or more to the cost of construction. This can be significant.

3. It locks communities into doing what they have already done. Varied architectural styles are not welcome. Frank Loyd Wright would not have been able to build his buildings in St. Louis unless he followed the tried and true architectural style. A preservation yesterday said streets should have the feel of 1910. Is that what we want?

Written by Paul Dribin

Vacancies in St. Louis

As you may know, there has been a collaborative formed to address the huge vacancy problem in St. Louis. Various task forces are meeting and I participate in two of them. Most of the people at the meetings appear to be community activists with a smattering of developers.

The discussions have generally been good but rather general in nature. We do not seem to want to address the key problems which I see as:

1. Outmoded methods of management and sales by LRA.

2. The higher cost of doing business in St. Louis.

3. Historical preservation

4. Crime

5. The overall oversupply of housing and undersupply of population in the region.

6. The unwillingness of the group to accept demolition.

Written by Paul Dribin

Deconstruction

I am not writing about the obtuse literary theory known as deconstruction. Instead, I am writing about a redevelopment tool St. Louis is experimenting with using in lieu of demolition. In the case of deconstruction, a qualified contractor takes apart and in some case refurbishes construction material from vacant houses. The idea is to have these materials reused by contractors, home builders, etc. It is a good idea that warrants attention. It is not a large scale program that will eliminate the need for demolition, but it will help. written by Paul Dribin

Vacancies in St. Louis

Good news! The City of St. Louis is mobilizing efforts to deal with the vacancy situation in St. Louis which encompass 7000 vacant properties. I have worked with issue when I worked with the city and HUD. Several factors in addition to economic instability contribute to the vacancy problem. These issues I am familiar with are:

1. The aldermanic system. Many aldermen do not want vacant properties razed because of some perverted idea that it will take constituents away from their communities

2. A reluctance to demolish anything.

3. A policy by the city of letting vacant properties sit because they think there will be a demand for these properties at some time in the future.

4. Historic preservationists also do not want buildings razed. I remember when I worked at HUD being chewed out by a historic preservationists because we razed a building that was severely fire damaged.

5. The aldermanic system in St. Louis.

6. A lack of funding to deal with environmental and lead based paint issues.

I wish the people working on this project well. Written by Paul Dribin

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

St Louis Moves Ahead on Property Demolition

The Post contained a good but overly long article on demolition in St Louis. According to the article there are about 7000 properties in need of demolition. The city is more aggressively tackling the problem which is a major priority of Mayor Krewson.

I say congratulations. This is a step in the right direction. I have seen neighborhoods suffer for years due to the prescience of abandoned properties. The real problem again, is the political system in St. Louis in which the alderman must approve every tear down. Some have refused to approve any out of a mistaken notion that someone will return and rehab the property.

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

The limits of Historic Preservation

St Louis is a city tied up in historic preservation. Most of the city is in some historic neighbor or another. Is this a good thing?

Well, it depends. If you have a truly historic house the designation brings resources to the table to improve the property. If you have a non historic house in a historic district you could be screwed. That is because rehabbing that property will require historic preservation processes that will add significantly to the cost of rehabbing the house, often more than the value of the property itself. Properties get abandoned and neighborhoods deteriorate.

Alderman and other civic leaders have pushed to designate deteriorated areas as historic in an erroneous effort to create revitalization. If anything these efforts hurt.

What can be done? First develop a reasonable definition of historic. Not every old building meets the standard. Second allow more flexibility in design. We would never have had the modernist architectural style if every neighborhood had to conform to existing styles. Finally use a reasonable definition of historic. The federal register talks about unique. That would be a good starting point.

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