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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “hud”

HOPE VI Did Not Meet Expectations?

HOPE VI was a HUD program to totally revamp public housing projects with a mixture of public, affordable, market rate housing, economic development, and social programs. The idea was to revitalize communities, offer a better living environment for tenants, and improve outcomes for low income individuals. An article now shows that far fewer housing units were actually completed under HOPE VI than announced. This is probably not surprising since actual financing and construction will bring more accurate results. My concern is that the program spent billions of dollars and did not achieve the results I described above. I worked on the Darst Webbe HOPE VI project here in St. Louis. It razed some bad public housing and significantly reduced crime in the surrounding neighborhoods. I doubt it had any important effects on the public housing residents and has not resulted in significant mixed income housing. Written by Paul Dribin. Attached is the article.

2018

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Study Finds “Selective Memory Planning” by HUD in the HOPE VI Program

A study published in Housing Policy Debate, “Broken Promises or Selective Memory Planning? A National Picture of HOPE VI Plans and Realities” by Lawrence Vale, Shomon Shamsuddin, and Nicholas Kelly finds that significantly fewer housing units, particularly market-rate rental and homeownership units, were developed in HOPE VI projects than were initially announced in HOPE VI award announcements. The study contends that HUD’s monitoring of HOPE VI represented “selective memory planning,” in which policy-makers ignore or erase the memory of initial plans and goals in favor of new plans and goals that are more likely to be achieved.

“Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere” (HOPE VI) was a HUD program to redevelop distressed public housing into mixed income communities with a combination of public, affordable, and market-rate housing for both renters and owners. The study’s authors compared the number of units, unit-type mix, and tenure initially announced in HOPE VI award announcements with estimates later entered into HUD’s administrative system for tracking projects’ progress based on revised plans. They also compared the award announcements with actual housing units completed. The authors conducted interviews with HUD staff to gain insight into their decisions.

The projected number of units in HUD award announcements was 11,600 higher than the revised counts eventually entered into HUD’s administrative system for program tracking. The revised estimates were 10% lower than the proposed units initially announced. The revised estimates of expected market-rate units were 29% lower and the revised estimates of expected homeownership units were 40% lower than the initial award announcements. This finding suggests that public housing agencies (PHAs) found market-rate housing and homeownership more difficult to achieve in HOPE VI projects than initially expected.

If a developer had to lower the expected number of housing units or change the unit-type and tenure mix after an award announcement, the new numbers were recorded in HUD’s administrative system. The system did not record the numbers initially proposed in the award announcement. The result is that it may appear a HOPE VI project produced the proposed number of units, unit-type mix, and tenure when the final outcome was less than what was promised in the initial award announcement.

The authors note that, on the other hand, it is reasonable that expected outcomes expressed in award announcements would change as the PHAs would often put projects out to bid to developers and complete financing after the award was announced. Most housing professionals understand that initial project proposals often change before construction begins because of development complexities. Expectations change as knowledge or circumstances change. On the other hand, residents may not understand this and see award announcements as promises to them and their communities.

HUD essentially “forgot” its initial award announcements, the authors contend. The report suggests that by engaging in selective memory planning, HUD prioritized its accountability to Congress and developers over its accountability to communities by comparing outcomes to revised expectations rather than comparing outcomes to the promises made to the community in the initial announcements.

“Broken Promises or Selective Memory Planning? A National Picture of HOPE VI Plans and Realities

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Trump administration doing nothing to increase affordable housing

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an excellent article from New York Times

Children Living in HUD Assisted Housing Have Worse Health Care Outcomes Than Average

The finding comes from research commissioned by HUD. The results to me are discouraging for the following reasons:1. Public health advocates have said that better housing will result in better health care outcomes. That is not the case in this study.2. There must be something in the lifestyle of poor people that results in poorer health. What are the dietary, smoking issues.Here is a synopsis of the report:Does HUD Assistance Affect Child Health Outcomes?July 11, 2018    About 4 million of the 10 million Americans who receive US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assistance are children. How healthy are these children? Housing policymakers and public health professionals increasingly recognize that housing is an important social determinant of health, particularly among children, as research shows that housing can significantly shape their emotional, psychological, and behavioral health and development. To fill the gap in research that previously relied on anecdotal evidence and case studies, a recent HUD study sought to identify the prevalence of health conditions and health care use among HUD-assisted children.The study provided prevalence estimates of the health of children ages 17 and younger in HUD-assisted households with those living in eligible but unassisted households and the general population. HUD assistance was defined as participation in one of HUD’s three primary subsidy programs: public housing, housing choice vouchers, and assisted multifamily housing. The authors linked responses from the National Health Interview Survey and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey over 14 years (1999–2012) to longitudinal HUD administrative data. The study explored differences in demographics, health status, health care use, and learning-related health status among the three groups, but the differences were not tested for statistical significance. The findings have important policy implications that suggest aligning housing assistance programs with health policy to potentially improve cost-effectiveness and health outcomes.Key findings • Most HUD-assisted children were black (52.2 percent) and lived in a single-parent, female-headed household (74.6 percent); 31.9 percent lived in large metropolitan centers. • Although 86.8 percent of HUD-assisted children had insurance coverage through public health insurance programs, they appear to have worse health status than the general population of children. • Most HUD-assisted children (84.4 percent) had a well-child checkup in the past year. Lower rates were reported for unassisted low-income households (80.2 percent) and the general population (76.8 percent). • The percentage of children with unmet medical needs because of unaffordability was similar among HUD-assisted children (3.5 percent) and children in the general population (4.4 percent). • HUD-assisted children (21.2 percent) are more likely to have asthma than children in unassisted, low-income renter households (17.7 percent). • 5 percent of HUD-assisted children had been told by a school or health professional that they had a learning disability.Photo by Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Ben Carson and Fair Housing Laws

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An editorial from New York Times

HUD Failure

This story is not specifically about St. Louis, it is about a failure of HUD that would effect all communities.

I have represented a HUD insured Section 8 project in another part of the country. Their 20 year Section 8 contract is due to expire. HUD requires an analysis called Mark to Market which requires analyzing the rent structure, usually adjusting the rents down and lowering the mortgage. It requires a rent comparability study which is like an appraisal.

HUD used poor comparables in their analysis resulting in the rents being lowered for the project. They used old comperables from when the market was low. I was hired to help appeal to HUD. We lost. As a result the project owners are opting out of affordable housing and turning their project into conventional housing at higher rents.

So HUD’s error which they refused to acknowledge has caused the loss of 62 affordable housing units. This is ironic considering their mission is to preserve it. Something tells me that my situation is not unique. Written by Paul Dribin

HUD Loans in St. Louis County

The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote today in a critical manner that St.Louis County had not utilized some $24 million in HUD loans intended to help distressed areas. These loans commonly referred to as 108 loans from the section of the housing act they fall under are part of HUD’s Community Development Program. HUD has threatened to pull back the funding if the money is not used.

It is not quite fair to be too critical of the county in this regard. First, the interest rates on the funds are only 1% lower than market and contain much more paperwork. Second, they do not work well on small projects such as housing rehab. The county needs to come up with one or two big projects for their utilization. Third they are loans not grants and the borrowers must be creditworthy. Finally, these loans are borrowed against future block grant funding, and in fact reduce the future funding by the amount of the loan.

The county had request a waiver for use of the funds and has not received an answer from HUD despite repeated requests for a decision. This whole thing smacks of HUD covering their collective asses. Written by Paul Dribin

Homelessness as Part of a Housing Continuum

In the housing world it seems for the most part that people deal either with affordable housing and homelessness. One develops and manages projects and the other provides services for homeless people. I have discovered that really affordable housing is one continuum with chronic homelessness where poverty and mental illness interact. Other people are periodically homeless due to circumstances such as job loss or divorce; these people are acutely homeless. Finally many other people on the continuum lack affordable housing and suffer from the results. They tend to pay too much of their income for housing, live in substandard housing, or double up. All of these folks need both housing support and social services to a greater or lesser degree. Housing practitioners would do well to view both housing and homelessness this way. Often our view of these issues get nuanced by our day to day work and funding sources. Written by Paul Dribin

More About Housing Tax Credits

Much is being written and discussed about the Governor’s decision to terminate Missouri State Affordable Housing Tax Credits. The loss of these credits will make affordable housing difficult to do and adversely affect a certain category of poor person. I am not in favor of eliminating these credits simply because there is really nothing else to work with in the affordable housing arena.

Nevertheless, the greed of some members of the affordable housing industry made this decision by the Governor inevitable. There are many developers, syndicators, attorneys, and consultants who have gotten rich off the program. Too much of a dollar of tax credits does not go for actual housing expenses. Many in the industry do not really care about poor people.

In addition, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program is both inefficient and ineffective. Inefficient for the reasons cited above plus a hugely complicated program. Ineffective because the program does not house poor people who need it the most. Tenants still must pay a $400-$600 monthly rent. Homeless people need not apply.

If the traditional public housing program was allowed the same per unit expenditures and site location it would have been a more efficient and effective housing program. Unfortunately, anything that smacks of public involvement is frowned upon these days. Written by Paul Dribin

Cheryl Lovell

Cheryl is the Executive Director of the St. Louis Housing Authority. The Authority owns low income public housing units housing thousands of very low income people. They also administer the Section 8 Choice Voucher Program which issues Section 8 vouchers for very low income people housed in private housing.

The Authority under Cheryl’s leadership has done a great job. They have substantially improved the buildings though extensive use of capital funds, successfully administered the voucher program, and is almost 100% leased up. The Authority has extensive social service programs to assist tenants in leaving poverty.

The housing authority was troubled when Cheryl took over, in the newspapers often with negative stories. None of that has gone on in the 19 years of her leadership. Great job! Written by Paul Dribin

The Myth of Pruitt Igoe

At the suggestion of a friend I finally watched the documentary The Myth of Pruitt Igoe. The whole subject is too vast for this one post, but the presentation was excellent. The experience was rather emotional, particularly seeing the testimony of former residents such as Ruby Russell who worked with me at HUD.

The presentation was pretty fair, doing a good job of avoiding simplistic answers. The basic premise is that things such as racism, project design, slum clearance, welfare rules, and so on. Where I believe the presentation was inaccurate was in attributing the problems at Pruitt Igoe to the population loss in St. Louis. While the city suffered population loss, the demand for public housing remained as high as ever with huge waiting lists.

Aside from the flaw of concentrating too many people in high rise buildings, the beginnings of the welfare state played a role. Previously, public housing did not even allow people on welfare to reside in their units. At the time of the development of Pruitt-Igoe, this rule changed and they pretty much let anyone in the project who was poor, regardless of background. The federal government at that time did not provide housing authorities with operating subsidies so all expenses needed to be covered by rent. Maintenance backlogs developed, repairs were not made, and the better tenants moved out.

During my housing career I had the privilege of being a friend and colleague of Tom Costello who was the Executive Director of the St. Louis Housing Authority at the time of the demolition. He has said the authority could simply not keep up with maintenance backlogs. He said George Romney, the Secretary of HUD at the time suggested total demolition. I have also known at former police officer at Pruitt Igoe. He said he would have 65 major cases to investigate every day when he came in.

The story of Pruitt Igoe is a tragedy and symbolized both the end of public housing and modernist architecture. I worked a year at the St. Louis Housing Authority in the late nineties. We received calls every week from people curious about Pruitt-Igoe all over the world. Architects would come on field trips to visit the site as if it was a religious shrine. Everyone needs to view this documentary. Written by Paul Dribin

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