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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Economic Development Agencies in St. Louis

I have always wondered about Economic Development Agencies. Lately there appears to be great turmoil at the Regional Chamber directed toward its’ President Joe Regan. All I know about that is what I read in the newspapers The Post had an extensive story about it today. What is curious to me is that apparently Mr. Regan’s alleged abusive behavior was also evident in his previous job in Louisville. Why did they hire him? Did they check his background?

More important, what do these agencies accomplish? They provide huge salaries to their staff, but what are the certifiable outcomes? What have been their legislative accomplishments in Jefferson City? I am going to write more about this topic in the future with data to back me up. I would like to hear of your experiences with these organizations

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Academia and Urban Development

This is a serious question. Does anyone know of any programs or techniques developed in the academic world that has been beneficial to your work? I do not? Nor does a friend of mine who is a student at the Kennedy School. The closest I see is inclusionary zoning which is a good idea but will never work because it is political poison. My friend states that most of the policies that he sees are geared to an eastern United States environment which is not practical in the midwest

Workforce Housing

I have done extensive work through the years on Workforce Housing, which is loosely defined as housing that is affordable for average working people. Barriers to this sort of housing are similar but a little bit more subtle than barriers to affordable housing. What I am talking about here is single family or attached units that are fairly small, 1200-1500 square feet, on a small lot.

The key barriers involve issues such as:

1. Zoning- Many times zoning laws do not allow multiple uses within a given area thereby requiring large lots and only single family homes to be constructed.

2. Land use- Again issues such as width of streets, sidewalks, and lot sizes drive up costs significantly.

3. Excessive levels of hearings and paperwork- Many times the permitting process is cumbersome and redundant. St. Charles County requires duplicate inspections by building inspectors and the fire department. All this costs money, adding to the cost of a home.

4. Historic preservation- This is largely a problem in the City of St. Louis. In that city virtually everything is considered historic. Rehab or construction of houses in these areas required intricate design and levels of approval. Costs increase significantly for historically compatible structures. Often, the house itself is not significant but is located in a historic neighborhood.

5. Resistance to manufactured housing- Factory build manufactured housing is much cheaper to construct, is safer, and more energy efficient. Many communities still do not allow for this type of housing.

6. Resistance from neighbors- People who own larger homes are resistant to communities of smaller ones. Consequently we get zoning and land use requirements that require minimum lot and house sizes, thereby driving up costs. Research shows that quality built smaller homes actually add to the value of their more expensive counterparts.

These issues can all be addressed through government and community leadership and common sense and do not require funding. Conservatives and liberals alike should be happy to address these issues. Inclusionary zoning could be one tool to address this but it has proved too politically charged to work in most communities.

SCORE

I want to tell you a little bit about SCORE for which I am a volunteer. Our group is a national organization that was initially funded by the Small Business Administration. We are volunteers, often retired, who mentor people starting small businesses and also provide analysis for ongoing businesses who are looking to improve. In addition we provide a number of workshops in the region on important business topics.

Our mentoring services are free and the workshops are provided at minimal cost. We have volunteers from all area of business including accountants, attorney’s marketing experts, and tech people. Check us out at our website, SCORESt.Louis.com

St. Louis Affordable Housing Trust Fund

The St. Louis Post Dispatch had a good article about the status of the City of St. Louis Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This fund was voted on and approved by the voters of St. Louis about 15 years ago. The purpose of the fund is to construct, rehab, and preserve affordable housing. A hunk of the funds need to be used for persons at or below 50% of the area median income. It has served the community well and has contributed to neighborhood stabilization.

Mayor Slay and now Mayor Krewson have tapped into the fund for other purposes. While I am sympathetic to the financial needs of the city, the purpose for which the fund was established was for housing. I consider other uses to be illegal. Activists need to get on this issue.

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