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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the tag “city of st louis”

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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More Metrolink Problems

More shootings drug dealings etc in and around Metrolink. People are afraid to ride it. I was correct in predicting Metrolink would be an albatross for the region. When are the leaders going to do something?

St. Louis as a Place to Live

I have a very good perspective on St Louis having grown up in Chicago and living here for 21 years.  In spite of itself, St Louis is a great place to live.   The culture and restaurants are first class. It is a great sports town and housing is quite affordable. You can get anywhere fairly quickly.  

Why have things not taken off here. There are several reasons 

1.  Racism.  Most of the other problems, crime, education, jobs, and dysfunctional government come from or racist traditions 

2.  Crime.  People around the country hear about crime in St. Louis and don’t want to move here.

3.  Education.  Many school systems are still a mess 

4. Cronyism. By cronyism I mean the strong tendency of people from St. Louis to pick there high school friends for key jobs and not consider outsiders. 

5. Dysfunctional government. This speaks for itself and is related to the other problems. 

We know what it takes to correct these issues. We have had lots of studies. Do we have the leadership and political will to make the changes?   Written. By Paul Dribin 

Health Care and Housing

More attention is being paid to the relationship between housing and healthcare. There are a couple obvious connections. Someone living in unsafe housing is more likely to suffer from serious Heslth problems. We know asthma increases for children living in substandard housing.

Second, families spending a disproportionate amount of money on housing do not have funds left over for healthcare. 

Third health care reform penalizes hospitals for readmisdion if patients. Hospital Social Workers tell me that they often have trouble finding decent affordable housing for patients. This contributes to readmissions

Work is underway to better mesh housing and healthcare. We need to begin the process in St Louis

St. Louis Development Guidelines

The City of St. Louis has issued draft development guidelines for the use of incentives. This material is very important and perhaps controversial. Here is the link:

https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/sldc/documents/upload/Development_Incentives_Input_Session_FINAL_06-08-17.pdf

Development Incentives in St. Louis

The City of St. Louis has for years handed out huge development subsidies in the form of TIFs, tax abatement, and other measures. They also offer soft second loans on developments which usually do not need to be paid back. Are these incentives effective? It is difficult to know. The Board of Aldermen Hud Committee is proposing a more rational approach to this issue and is gathering testimony from the public. Everyone involved in development needs to pay close attention.

My take on incentives is that it is difficult to use a formula to provide incentives. Ideally the development getting help would not be built without the incentives and the project would provide a real boost to the city. The Chase Park Plaza Hotel comes to mind. There would be less need for incentives if the city had a more rational, and fair permitting and development process. Most developers tell me the city is the most difficult place to do business.

Used of CDBG Funds in St. Louis

The Community Development Block Grant is a program devised by HUD to provide flexible funds to community to meet broad based urban development needs. Cities of over 50,000 people receive the funds on a categorical basis based upon poverty etc. St. Louis is of course one of these cities receiving funds by formula. The use of the funds is to address community development, housing, economic development in a way that the local community plans. The city receives an allocation of millions of dollars a year. The amount has declined but is substantial.

The city has misused much of this funding. Instead of concentrating funding on the areas of greatest need, the funds are divided equally among the 28 wards. This of course waters down the effect and provides the aldermen a slush fund for pet projects, which may have nothing to do with broader priorities of the city. When I worked for the St.Louis Housing Authority we needed city wide targeting of block grant funds to get $28 million from HUD for the Darst-Webbe demolition and redevelopment. This commitment was tough to get. Funds have been used to over rehab houses in very poor locations, or to create non profits which accomplish little. HUD shares in the blame because they have lacked the courage to challenge the city on these policies. I intend to do some detailed reporting on this subject in the future.

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