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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the tag “housing”

Garbage Research

I continue to be appalled by some of the garbage research that gets published in the name of social science and urban development. A recent one was published by The Brookings Institution titled The Devaluation of Assets in the Black Community. This is certainly a provocative title.

The research presumed to show that single family homes in the black communities are worth less than comparable houses in white communities. This is something that is hardly a surprise. These differences can be explained by lots of reasons, most prominently crime and schools. The authors made elaborate adjustments to properties and concluded there must be other reasons than the usual real estate ones for the difference in price. That difference of course was race.

If they could have shown comparable neighborhoods where everything was the same except race they could have made a point. Of course, they didn’t do any such thing.

My real problem is the concept of devaluation which assumes there is a proper value for any piece of real estate, or anything else. I could argue my house in St. Louis is devalued compared to San Francisco. These comparisons are meaningless. In St. Louis, black families moved out of historically black neighborhoods in huge numbers for reasons I stated, safety and good schools. Hardly surprising. Written by Paul Dribin

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Government Shutdown Hurting Low Income Housing Programs

nyti.ms/2Hnt8QP

Article is from The New York Times

Vacancies in St. Louis

As you may know, there has been a collaborative formed to address the huge vacancy problem in St. Louis. Various task forces are meeting and I participate in two of them. Most of the people at the meetings appear to be community activists with a smattering of developers.

The discussions have generally been good but rather general in nature. We do not seem to want to address the key problems which I see as:

1. Outmoded methods of management and sales by LRA.

2. The higher cost of doing business in St. Louis.

3. Historical preservation

4. Crime

5. The overall oversupply of housing and undersupply of population in the region.

6. The unwillingness of the group to accept demolition.

Written by Paul Dribin

Container Houses

The Post recently wrote of a couple in Old North St. Louis who are building a house consisting of storage containers. As long as the housing meets code, why not? The sad part of the story is that lenders are not willing to make mortgage loans on the north side. Isn’t that redlining? Written by Paul Dribin

Update on Paul McKee and Northside Project

Little is happening in this arena. KWMU came upon a renegotiation agreement that requires relatively little of the northside group to keep the deal going. As I have said, I know McKee and consider him an honorable purchase. I think he has been squeezed by too many parties in the city. Written by Paul Dribin

A Good Article Defending McKee

A good article from River City Ramblings with which I agree. https://stlpolitical.blog/2018/06/26/why-paul-mckee-has-unfairly-become-a-scapegoat-for-the-city-of-st-louis

shelterforce.org/2018/03/28/rent-control-works/

A thoughtful article about rent control

Housing and Schools

One of the biggest barriers thrown up against the construction of affordable housing, or housing in general, is that the increased number of children will negatively impact the schools. This is often a code for more racist beliefs. In any case, I am supplying an article from Shelterforce Weekly which quotes a study that disputes that notion. Like the author, I am skeptical that facts will change anyone’s mind.

BlogHousing

Adding Housing Doesn’t Overcrowd Schools

Miriam Axel-Lute

November 30, 2017

‘Monopoly’ by Rodrigo Tejeda, via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Only a few things in life are certain: Death, Republicans trying to cut taxes on the wealthy, and the fact that people opposing new housing development will bring up the possibility of overcrowding the local school system.

The fears trotted out in the face of proposed affordable housing developments rarely come to pass. One of our most popular articles describes how the claims made about four specific developments were evaluated after they were built and found to have either not happened, or happened to a much smaller extent than feared. “Many of the common fears about affordable housing are either overstated or simply wrong,” that article concluded, but it called for more systematic study.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council has delivered with a study that examines the relationship of new housing development and school enrollment in 234 public school districts across Massachusetts. It found they are not correlated at all:

We find that the conventional wisdom that links housing production with inevitable enrollment growth no longer holds true. At the district level, we observe no meaningful correlation between housing production rates and enrollment growth over a six-year period. While it is true that schoolchildren occupying new housing units may cause a marginal change in enrollment, they are one small factor among many. In cities and towns with the most rapid housing production, enrollment barely budged; and most districts with the largest student increases saw very little housing unit change.

There are too many other factors, including changing demographics and bidding up of prices in desirable school systems, that are affecting enrollment numbers. Housing production just isn’t registering.

Is Evidence Enough?

This is good news for housing advocates. Who wouldn’t want an evidence-based rebuttal to NIMBY fears (or what they claim to fear when what they actually fear is not acceptable to admit in public)?

However, I have my own fear. The idea of “more housing units will equal more students” has such an intuitive logic to it (after all, families with children who will go to the public schools could move in), and confirmation bias is very strong. I therefore worry that this will be one of those cases where trying to win a point merely by presenting contradictory evidence might just cause people to dig in their heels. Of course, hopefully decision makers will be more open to evidence than those who are trying to influence the decision makers, but that’s not a guarantee.

It seems to me like this study probably shouldn’t be trotted out during particular permitting fights without being paired with the details of the situation of a particular school system and its capacity, and the particular housing market. For example, is more school enrollment even actually a bad thing? (Many suburbs are seeing marked declines in enrollment, says the MAPC study.)

This is probably also a really good time to review best practices for engaging in high-conflict conversations—leading with values statements, using language that brings people in rather than reinforcing their ideas, shifting the overall narrative.

Here’s hoping that used carefully, these fascinating findings can help smooth the way for more housing where it is needed.

Health Care and Housing

More research is showing that good health outcomes are dependent on decent housing. We know that people who live in-substandard housing are more likely to have health problems, more frequently get admitted to emergency rooms. Excessive hospital stays for uninsured people drive up health care costs significantly. Hospitals are beginning to partner with housing professionals to find decent housing for frequent fliers to hospitals. I hope this starts to happen in St. Louis. Written by Paul Dribin

Historic Tax Credits and Trump

President Trump has proposed in his tax plan to eliminate the Federal Historic Tax Credits. This would be a disaster for most cities, and most significantly, St. Louis. Federal and state credits have been effectively used in St. Louis for years to rehabilitate and develop housing that is historically significant. The dollar value has to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The value to the community is even higher. This for a tax plan that increases the deficit and simply lines the pocket of already very wealthy Americans. Second, this does not even get at the possible cuts in the State of Missouri Historic Tax Credits proposed by Governor Greitens Written by Paul Dribin

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