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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “low income housing tax credits”

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

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Pagedale. Missouri

Pagedale is a tiny mostly African American community in north St. Louis County. The community has a history of corruption and poor living conditions.

Beyond Housing has been active in Pagedale for some time and is making some positive contributions to the community including housing,economic development, and social services. This process of improvement is difficult and slow.

St. Louis Magazine recently published an article about the situation in Pagedale which highlights the corruption and forwards some criticisms of Beyond Housing. I consider the article to be counterproductive, rehashing old news, gossip, and negativity. Too bad. No good deed goes unpunished. Written by Paul Dribin

Greitens Effect on Affordable Housing

As everyone knows, Governor Eric Greitens of Missouri is in deep trouble after being indicted for violating a Missouri law by taping his semi nude lover without her consent. If Greitens should leave office, it would be positive for affordable housing. He almost solely stopped the Missouri State Affordable Housing Tax Credit. There does not appear to be the same enthusiasm for this elimination on the part of the Lieutenant Governor or many other Republican leaders. We will have to see what happens. 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

The Beneficial Effects of Low Income Housing Tax Credits

I read some “scholarly” research today on the effect of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) on neighborhood stability. Some earlier research had suggested that LIHTC projects had a negative effect on low income communities. This study showed a very slight positive effect. This to me is faint praise. Affordable housing has been billed as transformative. Lives are clearly not being transformed by these programs, at best they are somewhat stabilized. Maybe that is all they can accomplish. They should not however be oversold. Written by Paul Dribin

State low Income Housing Tax Credits Again

Tony Messinger wrote a very powerful article today about the abuse of this tax credit program in Missouri. I have mixed emotions in response to his article. He is spot on that the program is inefficient and helps developers, lawyers, accountants, syndicator, bankers, and consultants get rich. Too little of the dollars generated by the program actually go to hard units of housing. I have been to many housing conferences in recent years where the subject could be soybeans, or pork futures. The participants do not care about poor people and affordable housing. I had unsuccessfully tried to get their interest in the work of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, but the group’s only concern had been tax credits.

On the other hand, the tax credit program is the only one there is for construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing. The program needs to be reformed, not eliminated. We also need to develop other tools for building affordable housing. 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

NIMBY in Webster Groves

Lutheran Senior Services a great senior housing provider had proposed constructing a 50 unit tax credit affordable housing project on their campus in Webster Groves, where I live, a suburb of St. Louis. The community once again reacted harshly, opposing the project for all the usual reasons, noise, density etc, even though it would be part of an existing campus and hardly noticed. In 2004 I was hired by Lutheran Senior to help develop a 202 low income senior project with the same results. People in our community attend church on a regular basis but don’t seem to get the message. Written by Paul Dribin

Do We Have an Affordable Housing Crisis in St. Louis?

The answer to this question is how you structure the problem. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has done the most work of any organization on this issue on a national level. They pose the problem by taking the median rental rate in the community and factoring in the minimum wage income. Not surprisingly they concluded that virtually now where in the United States is housing affordable.

There are several problems with this approach. The minimum wage is not a good indication of a community's earning capacity. Many minimum wage workers are students, part time workers, and those new to the work force. Many live with parents or double or triple up. Also most minimum wage workers don't remain at that pay level for a long time, as they move up the ladder. The minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage, rather just a starter for low skilled workers. Many minimum wage workers also work 2 or more jobs.

A better gauge of housing affordability is the relationship between the median income and the median rent. This gives us kind of an average, not perfect, but much better. Let's look at some numbers as a point of comparison:

St. Louis Metro Area

Median Income- $52243 for a family of 4 in the City of St. Louis
Median Rent -2 bedroom- $1291
Therefore the monthly median income of $4354 can afford a monthly rent of $1306 at the 30% threshold. This represents 100.01% of the median rent.

One may conclude that on the whole rent is affordable in the St Louis area for the median household.

Boston
Median Income-$67846
Median rent-2 bedroom-$3166
Therefore the monthly income of $5654 can support a monthly rent of $1696 at the 30% threshold. This represents 54% of the median rent.

The Boston market on the whole is not affordable.

This approach seems to be useful in making comparisons among communities. It also does not relieve our community of our responsibility to provide affordable housing. After all, median income is a statistic. There are thousands of people in our metro area who cannot afford the median rent and do not have access to adequate rental housing.

Written by Paul Dribin

Another Good Guy-Carl Lang

Today I am writing about a great guy and great real estate attorney, Carl Lang. I have known and worked with Carl for many years. He and his son David are very prominent in doing affordable housing, market rate housing, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects. He is extremely knowledgeable and has a quality I really like, he does not over lawyer. He is now Managing Partner at Rosenbloom Goldenhirsh. Written by Paul Dribin

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