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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “homeownership”

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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TIF In University City

NOVUS Development had been approved by University City to develop a mixed use commercial site at the intersection of Olive and I-170. This is an ethnically diverse area with lots of small businesses and minority residences. Community leaders are calling for a Community Benefits Agreement which would establish clear objectives to benefit everyone in the community especially those that might be displaced by the development. I believe this is only fair and proper in such a situation. I am confident this development will be a win-win. Written by Paul Dribin

Missouri River Bluffs

Whittaker Development is planning on building single family homes on an environmentally sensitive site over looking the Missouri River near the Katy Trail. The St. Charles County Commissioners need to vote on the proposal which is opposed by environmental groups. I would recommend voting against this project. We don’t often have these environmentally beautiful sites and need to preserve them. Written by Paul Dribin

A Very Good Article About Housing Policy From Brookings

www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/05/02/nine-rules-for-better-housing-policy/

I particularly like that they talk about income subsidy as well.

Homeownership tougher than ever

apple.news/ArLL6FK-DRq6Tg0ze-nlylQ

The Wall Street Journal points out in this article that homeownership is tougher than ever. In most cities there is a short supply of housing, and higher interest rates. Incomes have remained fairly stagnant. The suburban areas of St. Louis fit this pattern. Written by Paul Dribin

A bad racist housing program

www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/04/rent-to-own-redlining/557588/

This article itemizes a new form of land contract housing sales. It preys on African American people of limited means and marginal credit. People pay monthly but title to the property does not transfer until after a long number of years. The potential buyers build no equity and if they miss a payment they are out with no equity to show for it. These programs were used for blockbusting in Chicago when I grew up. Written by Paul Drib in

The Real Story Behind Racial Disparities in Mortgage Lending

There are numerous articles and discussions about the fact that African American borrowers are rejected at a higher rate that white borrowers. This disparity is present even when adjusting for income. On the face of it, this appears to be overt discrimination.

An important piece of the puzzle is missing from the discussion. That piece is the credit record and history of the borrower. This information is never made available in these studies and provides a more qualitative aspect of mortgage underwriting. Two other equally qualified borrowers will have different underwriting results if one has a negative credit record. Research I have conducted has shown that bad credit is the primary cause of a loan going bad.

Another factor shows this poor credit denies loans. Mortgage loan officers are extremely aggressive and make their fees off of closing loans. They would make a loan to anyone who would qualify. Race plays not factor in these decisions. Written by Paul Dribin

Development Subsidies in St. Louis

I attended a neighborhood housing board meeting in one of the neighborhoods of St. Louis recently. The group discussed a rehab job on a vacant house that will cost in the neighborhood of $250,000 to rehab and then sell for $120000. Development subsides will cover the gap.

This process makes no sense to me. I see the need for development subsidies in communities that are comprehensively redeveloping their housing stock and do not yet have housing values to break even in the process. These subsides should be limited to a reasonable percentage of the ultimate value. In the case I cited the subsidy of $13000 is more than the value of the property. This is crazy and it has been done thousands of times in St. Louis. Instead of comprehensive rehabilitation, aldermen or community activists pick out a property to rehab which has not overall effect on improving the community. Someone needs to take a good look at the whole process. Milwaukee where I previously lived and worked required that any housing with rehab costs higher than the end value be demolished. Written by Paul Dribin

Housing and Schools

One of the biggest barriers thrown up against the construction of affordable housing, or housing in general, is that the increased number of children will negatively impact the schools. This is often a code for more racist beliefs. In any case, I am supplying an article from Shelterforce Weekly which quotes a study that disputes that notion. Like the author, I am skeptical that facts will change anyone’s mind.

BlogHousing

Adding Housing Doesn’t Overcrowd Schools

Miriam Axel-Lute

November 30, 2017

‘Monopoly’ by Rodrigo Tejeda, via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Only a few things in life are certain: Death, Republicans trying to cut taxes on the wealthy, and the fact that people opposing new housing development will bring up the possibility of overcrowding the local school system.

The fears trotted out in the face of proposed affordable housing developments rarely come to pass. One of our most popular articles describes how the claims made about four specific developments were evaluated after they were built and found to have either not happened, or happened to a much smaller extent than feared. “Many of the common fears about affordable housing are either overstated or simply wrong,” that article concluded, but it called for more systematic study.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council has delivered with a study that examines the relationship of new housing development and school enrollment in 234 public school districts across Massachusetts. It found they are not correlated at all:

We find that the conventional wisdom that links housing production with inevitable enrollment growth no longer holds true. At the district level, we observe no meaningful correlation between housing production rates and enrollment growth over a six-year period. While it is true that schoolchildren occupying new housing units may cause a marginal change in enrollment, they are one small factor among many. In cities and towns with the most rapid housing production, enrollment barely budged; and most districts with the largest student increases saw very little housing unit change.

There are too many other factors, including changing demographics and bidding up of prices in desirable school systems, that are affecting enrollment numbers. Housing production just isn’t registering.

Is Evidence Enough?

This is good news for housing advocates. Who wouldn’t want an evidence-based rebuttal to NIMBY fears (or what they claim to fear when what they actually fear is not acceptable to admit in public)?

However, I have my own fear. The idea of “more housing units will equal more students” has such an intuitive logic to it (after all, families with children who will go to the public schools could move in), and confirmation bias is very strong. I therefore worry that this will be one of those cases where trying to win a point merely by presenting contradictory evidence might just cause people to dig in their heels. Of course, hopefully decision makers will be more open to evidence than those who are trying to influence the decision makers, but that’s not a guarantee.

It seems to me like this study probably shouldn’t be trotted out during particular permitting fights without being paired with the details of the situation of a particular school system and its capacity, and the particular housing market. For example, is more school enrollment even actually a bad thing? (Many suburbs are seeing marked declines in enrollment, says the MAPC study.)

This is probably also a really good time to review best practices for engaging in high-conflict conversations—leading with values statements, using language that brings people in rather than reinforcing their ideas, shifting the overall narrative.

Here’s hoping that used carefully, these fascinating findings can help smooth the way for more housing where it is needed.

St. Louis and Housing

I finished reading an article in the NYT today again about the overheated housing market in the San Francisco Bay Area with a focus on Berkley. It pointed out the resistance among single family homeowners to doing anything differently to make housing a little more affordable. I also believe that people in these markets are going to be underwater if the Republican tax bill passes and they are limited on mortgage interest deductions and cannot deduct state and local taxes.

In any case it points out to me again how so many quality neighborhoods in both St. Louis city and county contain quality housing at a good price for buyers. I would think a marketing program to young people living on the coasts may be in order. What a bargain. We also have great cultural amenities and a short commute. These are all pluses. Why aren’t we marketing them? Written by Paul Dribin

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