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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “new housing”

Community Reinvestment Act

The Community Reinvestment Act was a piece of legislation passed in the seventies which has had a very positive effect on urban development. This law required all regulated financial institutions to lend in non traditional areas and develop underwriting standards to allow this to happen. It has resulted in millions of minorities and minority communities receiving home loans. The program has also made money for banks and contrary to conservative ideology was not the cause of the housing collapse.

The Trump administration is trying to weaken the law. With everything else going on, this has not received much attention. We should be paying attention to this whole issue. Written by Paul Dribin

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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

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

Great Groups in St. Louis

This blog tends to focus on the problems going on in St. Louis. Today I want to write about organizations doing really positive work to improve the community and the lives of people. Here are the groups:

1. Beyond Housing- This organization led by a brilliant and dynamic President, Chris Krehmeyer is doing amazing work. They are most active in the area around the Normandy School District doing total community development though the 24:1 program. Efforts include housing, a movie theatre, health facilities, a bank, matching funds for college and many other program. This organization goes about community development the right way.

2.Better Family Life-This organization located in north St. Louis is focused on housing, financial literacy, credit building, and housing counseling. They are the only community based organization I know that is attempting to resolve the violence on the streets of North St. Louis.

3. DeSales Housing Development Corporation- This organization has been successful for years in developing and rehabilitating housing in the Benton Park area and providing a wholistic approach to community development.

4. Rise- This non profit has worked for years to build and rehabilitate affordable housing throughout St. Louis and to provide support and technical assistance to non profits.

5. Justine Petersen Housing Corporation- This organization provides micro loans to small businesses, credit counseling, and provides sources of financing and saving to people who do not have a regular relationship with a bank or poor credit.

6. St. Louis City Acadamy- This private school provides a world class education to mostly low income African American students in the City of St. Louis. All the students receive scholarships.

7. Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls- This charter school led by Mary Stillman provides STEM education to girls regardless of economic background. They have now begun their high school program.

8, Boys Hope/Girls Hope- BHGH provides a 24 hour living environment and education to academically strong students from a difficult background who would benefit from a change in living conditions. The scholars are provided with 24:7 support, attend regular high schools, and most of them go to and succeed in college.

I am sure there are other worthy organizations but these are the ones for which I am familiar. 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

State of Missouri Low Income Housing Tax Credits

Well the hammer has dropped. The Missouri Housing Development Commission. (MHDC) board voted today to eliminate the State Affordable Housing Tax Credits. These credits have been used in conjunction with federal affordable credits, historic credits, and other forms of subsidy and equity to build and rehabilitate affordable housing in Missouri. Governor Grietens has been pushing to eliminate these credits since he has taken office.

This action will make affordable housing in Missouri more difficult to accomplish. There will be fewer deals and less affordable rents. The state credit appears expensive in a simplistic way, but in terms of jobs creation and long term housing affordability it is critical.

There has been significant criticism of the multitude of state tax credits in Missouri. The reason for this is the unreliability of the state legislative process an the subsequent uncertainty to housing investors. My mild criticism of the industry for a long time has been that we are too reliant on tax credits and need to develop alternative sources of funding. Written by Paul Dribin

Development Subsidies in St Louis

Once again the topic of development subsidies and community benefit agreements has surfaced in St. Louis. Alderman Green who had opposed subsidies now is in favor of them in her ward. In addition she had negotiated a Community Benefits Agreement. Critics have pointed out a certain degree of hypocrisy in the whole transaction. I have reached certain conclusions:

1. Whether people like it or not, significant development in St. Louis is not possible without subsidies. The market is simply too weak.

2. The Community Benefit Agreements need to be re examined. Sometimes these agreements can seem like extortion and or conflict of interest. The city is proposing standardizing the process. That idea makes sense as long as the process does not take too long. Written by Paul Dribin

Historic Preservation in St. Louis

St. Louis has a remarkable and significant historic housing stock. Preserving this stock is very important. Yet, I often question the method or lack of method in which it is carried out. I particularly have problems with how houses that are not historic but located in historic neighborhoods are treated. These houses must meet the same stringent standards of the historic houses even if they have no historic value of their own.

A big problem with the St. Louis approach to historic preservation is the notion than all old buildings are historic. This is simply not true. Second, the federal register characterizes historic buildings as being unique, which is not usually the case in St. Louis. Third, aldermen and other political leaders have pushed to designate neighborhoods as historic in an effort to spur development. Often is has the opposite effect. Costs get driven up significantly, making a developer’s ability to do a deal more difficult without subsidies. It has also caused too many buildings to stand vacant.

We need a more sensible approach that balances preservation with economic development. Perhaps expenditures for preservation should be no more than the end use value of the property. Flexibility needs to be added to the architectural standards. New and innovative architectural styles are not allowed under the preservation system. Modern architecture would not have been allowed. Written by Paul Dribin

Some New Housing in St. Louis

The media has written about some important new housing developments in St. Louis. Nurenberger Duffy are building 27 affordable units in the Hyde Park neighborhood. The Desales Housing Corporation is rehabbing some scattered site units for rental in their neighborhood. Both projects are utilizing Low Income Housing Tax Credits from MHDC. Both organizations are excellent with leadership that has been very effective in the affordable housing field for years. These are good projects and will benefit the community. Written by Paul Dribin

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