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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “public housing”

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

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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

St. Louis Housing Authority

Yesterday’s discussion about HOPE VI provides for a natural lead in to today’s discussion about the St. Louis Housing Authority. The authority controls thousands of conventional, section 8, and tax credit projects. Their work has been exceptional. They have been led for many years by Cheryl Lovell who quietly has created a powerhouse organization.

Back before Cheryl took over the housing authority was typically considered trouble and on HUD’s bad list. Negative stories about the authority were common in the media. The reforms started under Tom Costello and continued under Cheryl. They have completed revitalized their older projects, collect more rent, and have contracted out their property management. Written by Paul Dribin

Hope vi

Hope VI is a now discontinued public housing program that completely rehabilitated distressed public housing projects in this country.   The idea behind the program was to combine physical rehabilitation social services and create mixed income communities. I had the opportunity to work on the Darst Webbe program in the near south side.  That program has been successful in creating a mixed income community and has led to improvements in surrounding neighborhoods. 

Recent research has evaluated HOPE VI.  The program has not really transformed lives and it was noted that displaced public housing residents did not readily move back 

I believe the program has provided urban development benefits but has not significantly improved the lives of residents. The cost is quite high and demolition and new construction may have been cheaper. The jury is still out on mixed income housing. I have serious doubts that given a choice anyone would opt for this type of housing 

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