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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “rental housing”

One Way in Which St. Louis is Like California

California has just passed new legislation for creating more affordable housing. It is a drop in the bucket of what is needed but a good start. The reasons for the California housing crisis are many. An overheated economy and lack of supply help explain the problem. The lack of supply is predominantly due to restrictions on height and density, and extremely involved zoning laws restricting multifamily development.

St. Louis does not have an overheated economy but still suffers from unnecessary restrictions. I point to the historic preservation requirements in the City of St. Louis as a significant barrier to affordable housing. The suburbs have zoning laws which require low density and policies against the development of multifamily housing. Changes in zoning and land use will not alone create the conditions for affordable housing but it certainly would help. Written by Paul Dribin

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Landlord Lockouts

Tony Messenger had a good article in the Post today about a subject of which I had been aware but needed reminding. That is a situation that is common in St. Louis and probably elsewhere; landlord lockouts and illegal evictions.

What happens is that a tenant who is behind on their rent discovers their apartment is padlocked and they cannot gain entry. A second scenario might involve their possessions being put on the sidewalk. These intimidation techniques often result in the tenant leaving on their own and forfeiting their security deposit. Of course in Missouri as in all states there is a judicial process which involves a court hearing if the tenant requests it.

In St. Louis such actions are not criminal offenses. The board of aldermen is attempting to pass an ordinance criminalizing this behavior. I would like to see huge fines imposed on landlords in these situations for their greedy behavior. Ironically, the courts will always rule in the landlord’s favor if the tenant is behind on their rent. Most landlords, particularly the larger ones do not engage in this behavior. Written by Paul Dribin

A Plan for Vacant Units in St. Louis

Since moving to St. Louis almost 22 years ago, I have been taken with the number of vacant buildings in the city and the seeming resistance to doing anything about them. Now St. Louis is embroiled in a legal battle to do something about them. In a recent election Proposition NS received 57% of the votes in the city. The Board of Elections ruled that the measure had failed because 67% of the vote is required for a proposal such as this. The city has a lawsuit going over the issue, contending that the state law only requires a 50% majority and that law should prevail. I wish the city luck in this endeavor. In the past on other issues such as minimum wage they have argued that home rule prevails. We shall see. Written by Paul Dribin

Weird Things About City Development

Paul Krugman published an article in the New York Times which made sense. He argued that cities have not grown in a rational way because cities either allowed helter skelter development or engaged in NIMBY policies. Houston is an example of the former and San Francisco the latter. More publicity needs to be given to the discriminatory effects of exclusionary zoning in many communities.

Interesting St. Louis City seems to engage in both types of negative behavior. The city will give away the store to certain large developers but hound to death small developers with historic preservation requirements. A better balance is needed. 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

Air B&B and Affordable Housing

Housing activists in some communities have complained that Air B&B has caused a decline in affordable housing. Is this true for St. Louis? I doubt it. After all the Air B&B program takes mostly rooms from mostly houses that are otherwise inhabited. If full apartments are rented they were probably not in the affordable rental category. 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

How Cities Can Promote Affordable Housing

How Housing Matters has an article about the above referenced subject. They point to an issue that I have frequently pointed out, zoning, land use, lack of density make affordable housing more difficult to do. Interestingly, the article shows that inclusionary zoning, a darling of the academic elite and the Urban Land Institute, has little effect even in those rare places where it is approved. Written by Paul Dribin

Copy of article from How Housing Matters:

How Can Cities Produce More Affordable Housing?

August 03, 2017

Though cities have recovered from the 2008 recession, housing market trends have created new burdens. Gentrification has taken the form of “new build” housing in recent years, and the demand for housing in formerly depressed neighborhoods has skyrocketed—as have rents. Meanwhile, wages for low- and moderate-income families are stagnant, and federal subsidies for affordable housing have declined. In their article, Lance Freeman and Jenny Schuetz describe housing (particularly rental) affordability in rising markets, review strategies and policies addressing assistance for poor households in inner cities, and provide suggestions for more effective and sustainable affordable housing policies. They present the idea that for any policy tackling housing affordability to be successful, it must take a holistic approach that bridges human development and housing. They urge supporting neighborhoods, schools, crime, and other factors that affect quality of life, in addition to housing, to effectively and sustainably produce affordable housing.

Key findings

The most widely used policies that address housing affordability, such as inclusionary zoning, have produced few affordable units and do not help much with overall housing affordability. The authors found that in the areas they studied, inclusionary zoning produced less than 0.1 percent of the affordable housing stock. A better understanding of why this is depends on recording better data on these programs.
Cities and counties should reduce regulatory burdens of development to reduce the cost of new housing.
Local governments should increase zoning density limits to allow for the production of small, low-cost units.
Local governments and nonprofits working on housing affordability need to attract and use private funding. This will help create an economically diverse housing stock, which is important for labor markets to function and for family and community well-being.

Urban Development and Privilege

Much has been written recently about the concept of white privilege. I  find the term somewhat offensive because it makes people defensive. Nevertheless, the concept is true

There are a couple areas of middle class privilege that contribute negatively to the well being of communities.   The first is the mortgage interest deductions. This deduction primarily helps higher income people, and artificially drives up the price of housing. Working class people who do not itemize are hurt. This by the way is the biggest housing subsidy. A tax credit targeted to working class people would be more effective

A second set of privileges cover zoning and planning laws in our communities. These laws tend to zone out smaller and more affordable housing and Multifamily housing. I am not talking about housing homeless people but teachers social workers, nurses etc.    

The results of these policies are unnecessary segregation , a lack of mobility, and urban decline.  Written by paul Dribin

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