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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the tag “hud”

Ben Carson and Fair Housing Laws

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An editorial from New York Times

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HUD is Cutting Back on Fair Housing Enforcement

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The above article was printed in the New York Times today. Secretary Carson has instructed staff not to issue any fair housing investigations at all. As a former HUD staffer, I can say with certainty that the threat of HUD sanctions prompted cities to move on these issues. While we are all focusing on Stormy Daniels, stuff like this happens. Written by Paul Dribin

HUD Failure

This story is not specifically about St. Louis, it is about a failure of HUD that would effect all communities.

I have represented a HUD insured Section 8 project in another part of the country. Their 20 year Section 8 contract is due to expire. HUD requires an analysis called Mark to Market which requires analyzing the rent structure, usually adjusting the rents down and lowering the mortgage. It requires a rent comparability study which is like an appraisal.

HUD used poor comparables in their analysis resulting in the rents being lowered for the project. They used old comperables from when the market was low. I was hired to help appeal to HUD. We lost. As a result the project owners are opting out of affordable housing and turning their project into conventional housing at higher rents.

So HUD’s error which they refused to acknowledge has caused the loss of 62 affordable housing units. This is ironic considering their mission is to preserve it. Something tells me that my situation is not unique. Written by Paul Dribin

The Myth of Pruitt Igoe

At the suggestion of a friend I finally watched the documentary The Myth of Pruitt Igoe. The whole subject is too vast for this one post, but the presentation was excellent. The experience was rather emotional, particularly seeing the testimony of former residents such as Ruby Russell who worked with me at HUD.

The presentation was pretty fair, doing a good job of avoiding simplistic answers. The basic premise is that things such as racism, project design, slum clearance, welfare rules, and so on. Where I believe the presentation was inaccurate was in attributing the problems at Pruitt Igoe to the population loss in St. Louis. While the city suffered population loss, the demand for public housing remained as high as ever with huge waiting lists.

Aside from the flaw of concentrating too many people in high rise buildings, the beginnings of the welfare state played a role. Previously, public housing did not even allow people on welfare to reside in their units. At the time of the development of Pruitt-Igoe, this rule changed and they pretty much let anyone in the project who was poor, regardless of background. The federal government at that time did not provide housing authorities with operating subsidies so all expenses needed to be covered by rent. Maintenance backlogs developed, repairs were not made, and the better tenants moved out.

During my housing career I had the privilege of being a friend and colleague of Tom Costello who was the Executive Director of the St. Louis Housing Authority at the time of the demolition. He has said the authority could simply not keep up with maintenance backlogs. He said George Romney, the Secretary of HUD at the time suggested total demolition. I have also known at former police officer at Pruitt Igoe. He said he would have 65 major cases to investigate every day when he came in.

The story of Pruitt Igoe is a tragedy and symbolized both the end of public housing and modernist architecture. I worked a year at the St. Louis Housing Authority in the late nineties. We received calls every week from people curious about Pruitt-Igoe all over the world. Architects would come on field trips to visit the site as if it was a religious shrine. Everyone needs to view this documentary. Written by Paul Dribin

HUD to Defund Fair Housing Grants in Missouri

Missouri passed a law about six months ago which made filing a discrimination or fair housing complaint more difficult. Many in the know advised against it primarily for moral reasons, but also because of the potential for lawsuits and possibility of listing federal funding. Well, the predictions have come true. HUD has written that if the law is not changed by March 2018 federal funding for fair housing enforcement will be terminated. That is because the state law is no longer “substantially equivalent” to the federal law. It would be just deserts if Amazon opted not to come here due to our redneck ways. Written by Paul Dribin

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

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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