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Paul Dribin Newsletter

The Most Honest Information About Urban America

Basic Principles

Paul DribinApr 20

Welcome to all readers. I am writing this newsletter as someone who has many years of experience working with urban policy issues. There are certain key principles that are important to me. Hopefully, they could provide some benefit to you. I will briefly summarize these issues and write about them in more depth in later issues.

  1. The information must be data driven
  2. It must not be governed by any overriding political issues.
  3. It must be practical so that average policy makers can implement it.

Overriding concepts:

  1. Urban policy should be governed by helping individuals rather than fitting individuals into programs. Often programs are inefficient.
  2. It is almost impossible to rebuild crime ridden underserved neighborhoods without gentrification. Poor people are better served moving to neighborhoods of opportunity with safe neighborhoods, good schools, etc.
  3. There must be more effort put on ending poverty by giving poor people money with some support rather than providing programs. The income transfers from the low income tax credit programs and social security have taken more people out of poverty than have the dozens of programs intended to do so.
  4. Universal pre kindergarten is a must.
  5. Many students do not have the availability of an adult who is a positive role model. Mentoring programs need to be put in place for such students and their families. I have been a mentor in such programs and have been surprised at the positive effect on the students.
  6. Crime is a huge problem. Middle class people are afraid to visit cities. Major police reform is imperative but there are many people for whom strong police action is necessary. Minority populations are most affected by crime.
  7. Drug possession should be de criminalized and treated as a health issue. Many African Americans are hauled into the criminal justice system and can’t get out as a result of drug possession.
  8. Urban Homesteading is a promising tool with which to populate areas with large tracts of vacant housing.
  9. To bring about substantive change people need to be willing to make the change and invest the effort in doing so.
  10. Job subsidies are a good way to go. This rewards work and provides individuals with a decent basic wage.
  11. Zoning, land use, and local codes are major barriers to affordable housing. These need to be reformed. Every thousand dollars of extra cost prices many people out of the housing market.
  12. Hospitals and homeless service providers need to work together to address chronic homelessness. Many homeless individuals show up at emergency rooms on a regular basis running up huge bills for hospitals. These hospitals should be willing to put up funding to support permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless people.
  13. T

Ending Homelessness and Improving Health Care at Once

This seems to be too good to be true but is real. Experiments around the country and most recently in St. Louis conclude the same thing, that housing and supportive services for homeless people not only improves their housing situation but their health.

An experimental program started by Barnes Jewish Christian Hospital and St. Patricks Center has demonstrated the point. The BJC staff had found that a relatively small number of homeless people were significantly overusing their facilities and running up huge unreimbursed health care bills. BJC contracted with St Patricks Center to provide affordable supportive housing and wrap around services. The results have been fantastic. The clients significantly reduced their emergency room usage, thereby showing significant drops in health care costs. Furthermore, the formerly homeless people were housed properly and affordable, and had access to good healthcare and jobs. A true win win situation. Let’s replicate it all over the country. Written by Paul Dribin(I played a leadership role in bringing the parties together and getting the program started)

The Post Office and Me

Like most people, I am appalled at the politicization of the post office by Trump and his crowd and the whole notion of making it harder for people to vote. I have an especially fond memory of the post office, having worked as a letter carrier during the summers and at Christmas time.

I loved that job, it was perfect for me. We started at 5:3AM, sometimes 4, sorted mail for the route and went on the street and delivered at about 9. I substituted for regular carriers who had the day off or were on vacation. I learned quite a lot:

1. The mail carrier is a source of stability and peace in the neighborhood. You see what is going on. I rarely ran into customers but would be aware if there was anything improper going on.

2. The atmosphere in the post office among carriers sorting for their routes was fractious. They insulted the hell out of each other and nothing was off the table. Much of the talk would not be accepted now.

3. It was my first experience interacting in depth with black people. Many of the carriers and supervisors including my boss were black. What was interesting was that the black carriers were more educated than their white counterparts, many being college graduated and army vets. It took me a while to realize that many of these guys had trouble getting jobs in the private sector

4. The customers really relied on our services. In those days some businesses received two trips a day. Social security checks were delivered, it was before the days of direct deposit. We hand delivered all the original master card and Visa cards to people. What a deal!

Written by Paul Dribin

Principle 1 of Urban Development

I will be writing a series of relatively short articles on urban development based upon my long career in the field. Principle 1-Don’t Romanticize Poor People

This is an issue I see all the time from white liberals. They think being poor is noble and that poor people are never at fault and always victimized. I go back to what the great writer David Brooks wrote on the subject. He wrote that conservatives believe that poverty and social ills are always caused by the individuals involved. Progressives believe that these problems are the results of racism and societal disorder. The reality is somewhere in the middle, there is tremendous systemic REAC is I’m and oppression, but at the same time most people have overcome this, and given individuals make personal decisions that make their personal lives much worse. The major difference for poor people is they have little or no margin for error.

Urban development programs whether housing or other must build in incentives for people who exercise individual responsibility get rewarded. Maybe a fund for students to attend college or trade school, or other funds that enhance salaries so working people can earn a decent income. Just remember, romanticizing someone is a sure form of stereotype and prejudice. Written by Paul Dribin

Surviving Coronavirus

The coronavirus is of course a favorite topic of conversation among by mostly elderly friends. My feelings about it may be unusual. I have found a greater sense of peace than before, concentrating on what is important, family, friends, and health. I have always been an introvert and enjoy the opportunity to increase my reading and writing. I certainly miss going to concerts, sports, movies, plays and so on. Dining in Resturant’s is out of the question. I certainly am upset about our country’s inept leadership on the issue and do not want to see anyone die. My own life though has been enjoyable because I have the luxury of not needing to work and being relatively well off financially. I would like to see what others’ experiences are. Written by Paul Dribin

I’m Back

I have re-emerged from the wilderness. I am writing this blog again because there is so much going on and I have so much new material to convey. I hope people enjoy what I have to say and that I get a decent following. Please enjoy. Paul

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.

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