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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “poverty”

Evictions

There are major new research efforts ongoing that focus on evictions. I see this becoming the next social justice issue. Some people claim the volume of evictions is greater than ever. I don’t know how that claim can be made.

Evictions are bad for both the tenant and landlord. Focusing on eviction as the problem would be like focusing on stopping death or some terrible illness. Most evictions are justified. The problem is poverty and poor life choices rather than focusing on some mechanical solution to evictions like mediation etc. By the time a case gets to eviction it is a lost cause.

Poverty plays a major role in evictions but not always the way one would think. If poverty was the sole cause, public housing where tenants pay almost no rent would have a lower rate of eviction. In fact the rate is higher. Families that are traumatized, poor, and who make poor choices have the greatest chance of losing their unit. Anything that creates restrictions for landlords will simply drive up the rent for other tenants. Written by Paul Dribin

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Poverty in the Suburbs

I read an article in the Washington Post over the weekend which provided data that poverty is increasing faster in the suburbs than in central cities. I have heard reports of this nature for some time. Maybe this will make suburban voters a little more sensitive to the concerns of their counterparts in the city. Written by Paul Dribin

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

Three Articles that Tell it All

Today’s Post had three articles which when taken together summarize the problems of the St. Louis area.

1. The Madison County Illinois Sheriff blamed the crime in St. Louis on a recent murder in his county and related crimes. This represented a certain amount of hyperbole but also was true. The crime situation is way out of hand and slowing the region.

2. Joe Regan was fired as President of the Regional Chamber. I don’t know the inner workings of that organization but I regularly wonder why it receives the large amount of funding it does from governmental and private sector organizations. He received over $700,000 in salary with no results while running the organization into the ground. Couldn’t those fees be better used to provide job training for disadvantaged individuals?

3. The Post also again reported on the racial gap in student achievement this time with College Advanced Placement Exams. I don’t put a lot of faith in these exams but they are an indicator of the achievement gap.

These stories indicated the terrible crime problem in St. Louis, the terrible educational system available to most African American students, and the back scratching cronyism of major area institutions such as the Regional Chamber. Written by Paul Dribin

New Market Tax Credits

St. Louis was recently awarded a large new slug of New Market Tax Credits. These credits are intended to enhance development in underserved economic areas. This is good news. Attached is the article:

Microsoft plans to anchor a new office and lab building set to open in mid-2018 in the Cortex technology district.


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The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday that the city of St. Louis’ lead economic development arm would receive a $35 million allocation of federal new markets tax credit authority.

The award is part of $3.5 billion in federal new markets tax credits authority allocated Tuesday to 73 organizations. The credits are designed to spur more investment in low-income and distressed areas by reducing the risk. Local organizations awarded the tax credits authority offer it to investors to attract them to projects in certain areas. Qualified investments are eligible for a 39 percent tax credit.

The St. Louis Development Corp., which aids developers and other economic development in the city, has received nine allocations of new markets tax credits totaling $418 million since 2004. It received $75 million in new market tax credit authority in late 2016, which combined the 2015 and 2016 allocations. In the 2014 round, it received $45 million.

“This is fantastic news for the City of St. Louis,” Otis Williams, SLDC’s executive director, said in a statement Tuesday. “New Markets Tax Credits have been a tremendous tool for us as we seek to redevelop and strengthen the City’s low-income neighborhoods.”

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Otis Williams, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corp., in a portrait on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in downtown St. Louis.  St. Louis Development Corp. was awarded $45 million in New Markets Tax Credits. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford elunsford@post-dispatch.com

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Another local entity winning an allocation this year was U.S. Bank’s community development corporate entity, USBCDE, which was awarded a $70 million allocation. The U.S. Bank Community Development Corp. is based in downtown St. Louis. USBCDE invests in projects around the country, not just St. Louis.

Demand should be high for the latest round of credits, said Matt Philpott, who heads the new markets tax credit program at USBCDE.

“I would expect of this new round of award … most of that will get used in 2018,” he said.

The credits have been used to fund multiple developments in St. Louis, including the restoration of the Central Library downtown, the headquarters for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri in Grand Center, the Cortex tech district’s new office building for Microsoft and the ongoing International Shoe building restoration on Washington Avenue.

The credits were in danger of being killed in the original U.S. House version of the federal tax overhaul. But the Senate’s tax cut bill retained the credits for the next two years at existing levels. Philpott said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., helped keep the credits alive in the tax legislation.

Let’s Get Priorities Right

I am constantly frustrated by the silly priorities of our region and the things we try to put effort into. The City of St. Louis is the murder capital of the country. Indeed some neighborhoods have a murder rate as high as the most dangerous third world countries. We have a huge amount of poverty, poor infrastructure, failing schools, poor public health, and a net loss of population. Our race relations are the joke of the country.

Instead of focusing on these issues we are concerned about Metrolink expansion, soccer stadiums, trolleys, and horse drawn carriages. Our government is hugely fragmented and dysfunctional. It’s no wonder we have problems. Written by Paul Dribin

City Reverse snobbery

For many year I have worked with so called urban pioneers who tend to be relatively affluent white people who live in marginal neighborhoods in cities by choice. I have found they tend to look down their noses on people who live in the burbs or make other choices. This is somewhat ironic because they often accuse suburbanites of the same type of snobbery they display.

We need to get past this issue. We all need each other. No one has a monopoly on truth or morality. People should not have to live in dangerous environments to prove their virtue. Troubled neighborhoods need middle class investment. Gentrification is not all bad; I don’t know of a neighborhood that has improved that has not gentrified. Written by Paul Dribin

Homelessness in St. Louis

Activists in St. Louis have mounted demonstrations against the Mayor and other city officials over the issues of homelessness. They have criticized the city for not making more homeless beds available and doing a better job of housing the homeless population. A poster child for this action has been a homeless man who died in a portapot before Christmas.

That gentleman’s story is symptomatic of the homeless problem. This individual had refused help from his family and from workers in an office building near his portapot. He consistently refused help; most likely having a mental health problem. I don’t know of any way the city could have managed this situation.

I work closely with the homeless issue in St. Louis. I help serve lunch every week at Biddle House. When the Larry Rice facility was shut we did not notice an upswing in people coming in for lunch. Where did his alleged population go? Also, as pointed out by the city, if there is an overflow in shelters churches step in and house people.

I don’t believe there are people sleeping on the streets who could not be admitted to shelters. I also believe if we built ten more shelters they would be full. The issue is complicated, but homelessness is a more fluid situation than most people understand. The answer to the problem is permanent supportive housing. Written by Paul Dribin

A Practical Method to Lessen Violent Deaths in St. Louis

The new police chief of St. Louis held a press conference in which he discussed targeting the relatively small number of individuals who account for most of the gun violence. The date in the hands of the city would seem to indicate the identities of the key perpetrators. This idea makes total sense. My only question is why they were not doing it before.

Boston and San Bernardino has adopted this approach with additional carrots and sticks. They use other community based folks, often ex offenders to reach out to the perpetrators and offer them supports such as job training etc. to leave crime. If they refuse they are promised the full brunt of the law. In both places crime has been significantly reduced.

I believe the ultimate intervention is to offer mentoring from the time of birth to any at risk child and family that want it..A definition of at risk could be children who would qualify for free school lunches. This would require many volunteers and staff but would ultimately turn around the cycle of crime. Written by Paul Dribin

Concentration of Crime

The St. Louis Post Dispatch carried an interesting article this weekend about crime. It showed that crime is more than ever concentrated in smaller areas, but in those areas the amount of crime is high. The disparity between the high and low crime areas is greater than ever. This certainly seems to be the case in St. Louis, but it is important to point out that there is not a complete correlation between crime and poverty. Some low income neighborhoods have less crime than others. Most people who live in low income neighborhoods do not commit crime. We need more research on the particular causes of crime and focus our policies on those situations. Written by Paul Dribin

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