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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the tag “public housing”

HOPE VI Did Not Meet Expectations?

HOPE VI was a HUD program to totally revamp public housing projects with a mixture of public, affordable, market rate housing, economic development, and social programs. The idea was to revitalize communities, offer a better living environment for tenants, and improve outcomes for low income individuals. An article now shows that far fewer housing units were actually completed under HOPE VI than announced. This is probably not surprising since actual financing and construction will bring more accurate results. My concern is that the program spent billions of dollars and did not achieve the results I described above. I worked on the Darst Webbe HOPE VI project here in St. Louis. It razed some bad public housing and significantly reduced crime in the surrounding neighborhoods. I doubt it had any important effects on the public housing residents and has not resulted in significant mixed income housing. Written by Paul Dribin. Attached is the article.

2018

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Study Finds “Selective Memory Planning” by HUD in the HOPE VI Program

A study published in Housing Policy Debate, “Broken Promises or Selective Memory Planning? A National Picture of HOPE VI Plans and Realities” by Lawrence Vale, Shomon Shamsuddin, and Nicholas Kelly finds that significantly fewer housing units, particularly market-rate rental and homeownership units, were developed in HOPE VI projects than were initially announced in HOPE VI award announcements. The study contends that HUD’s monitoring of HOPE VI represented “selective memory planning,” in which policy-makers ignore or erase the memory of initial plans and goals in favor of new plans and goals that are more likely to be achieved.

“Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere” (HOPE VI) was a HUD program to redevelop distressed public housing into mixed income communities with a combination of public, affordable, and market-rate housing for both renters and owners. The study’s authors compared the number of units, unit-type mix, and tenure initially announced in HOPE VI award announcements with estimates later entered into HUD’s administrative system for tracking projects’ progress based on revised plans. They also compared the award announcements with actual housing units completed. The authors conducted interviews with HUD staff to gain insight into their decisions.

The projected number of units in HUD award announcements was 11,600 higher than the revised counts eventually entered into HUD’s administrative system for program tracking. The revised estimates were 10% lower than the proposed units initially announced. The revised estimates of expected market-rate units were 29% lower and the revised estimates of expected homeownership units were 40% lower than the initial award announcements. This finding suggests that public housing agencies (PHAs) found market-rate housing and homeownership more difficult to achieve in HOPE VI projects than initially expected.

If a developer had to lower the expected number of housing units or change the unit-type and tenure mix after an award announcement, the new numbers were recorded in HUD’s administrative system. The system did not record the numbers initially proposed in the award announcement. The result is that it may appear a HOPE VI project produced the proposed number of units, unit-type mix, and tenure when the final outcome was less than what was promised in the initial award announcement.

The authors note that, on the other hand, it is reasonable that expected outcomes expressed in award announcements would change as the PHAs would often put projects out to bid to developers and complete financing after the award was announced. Most housing professionals understand that initial project proposals often change before construction begins because of development complexities. Expectations change as knowledge or circumstances change. On the other hand, residents may not understand this and see award announcements as promises to them and their communities.

HUD essentially “forgot” its initial award announcements, the authors contend. The report suggests that by engaging in selective memory planning, HUD prioritized its accountability to Congress and developers over its accountability to communities by comparing outcomes to revised expectations rather than comparing outcomes to the promises made to the community in the initial announcements.

“Broken Promises or Selective Memory Planning? A National Picture of HOPE VI Plans and Realities

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Trump administration doing nothing to increase affordable housing

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an excellent article from New York Times

Inside New York Public Housing

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An excellent New York Times article about the challenges of running the New York City Housing Authority. As some of you know, HUD funding for capital needs has been hugely insufficient to address the needs of older units. Written by Paul Dribin

Children Living in HUD Assisted Housing Have Worse Health Care Outcomes Than Average

The finding comes from research commissioned by HUD. The results to me are discouraging for the following reasons:1. Public health advocates have said that better housing will result in better health care outcomes. That is not the case in this study.2. There must be something in the lifestyle of poor people that results in poorer health. What are the dietary, smoking issues.Here is a synopsis of the report:Does HUD Assistance Affect Child Health Outcomes?July 11, 2018    About 4 million of the 10 million Americans who receive US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assistance are children. How healthy are these children? Housing policymakers and public health professionals increasingly recognize that housing is an important social determinant of health, particularly among children, as research shows that housing can significantly shape their emotional, psychological, and behavioral health and development. To fill the gap in research that previously relied on anecdotal evidence and case studies, a recent HUD study sought to identify the prevalence of health conditions and health care use among HUD-assisted children.The study provided prevalence estimates of the health of children ages 17 and younger in HUD-assisted households with those living in eligible but unassisted households and the general population. HUD assistance was defined as participation in one of HUD’s three primary subsidy programs: public housing, housing choice vouchers, and assisted multifamily housing. The authors linked responses from the National Health Interview Survey and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey over 14 years (1999–2012) to longitudinal HUD administrative data. The study explored differences in demographics, health status, health care use, and learning-related health status among the three groups, but the differences were not tested for statistical significance. The findings have important policy implications that suggest aligning housing assistance programs with health policy to potentially improve cost-effectiveness and health outcomes.Key findings • Most HUD-assisted children were black (52.2 percent) and lived in a single-parent, female-headed household (74.6 percent); 31.9 percent lived in large metropolitan centers. • Although 86.8 percent of HUD-assisted children had insurance coverage through public health insurance programs, they appear to have worse health status than the general population of children. • Most HUD-assisted children (84.4 percent) had a well-child checkup in the past year. Lower rates were reported for unassisted low-income households (80.2 percent) and the general population (76.8 percent). • The percentage of children with unmet medical needs because of unaffordability was similar among HUD-assisted children (3.5 percent) and children in the general population (4.4 percent). • HUD-assisted children (21.2 percent) are more likely to have asthma than children in unassisted, low-income renter households (17.7 percent). • 5 percent of HUD-assisted children had been told by a school or health professional that they had a learning disability.Photo by Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Evictions

There are major new research efforts ongoing that focus on evictions. I see this becoming the next social justice issue. Some people claim the volume of evictions is greater than ever. I don’t know how that claim can be made.

Evictions are bad for both the tenant and landlord. Focusing on eviction as the problem would be like focusing on stopping death or some terrible illness. Most evictions are justified. The problem is poverty and poor life choices rather than focusing on some mechanical solution to evictions like mediation etc. By the time a case gets to eviction it is a lost cause.

Poverty plays a major role in evictions but not always the way one would think. If poverty was the sole cause, public housing where tenants pay almost no rent would have a lower rate of eviction. In fact the rate is higher. Families that are traumatized, poor, and who make poor choices have the greatest chance of losing their unit. Anything that creates restrictions for landlords will simply drive up the rent for other tenants. Written by Paul Dribin

Public Housing

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An editorial from NYT about the state of public housing in New York City and resignation of Executive Director. All housing authorities are suffering from a lack of federal support. Rents can’t come close to covering rent. The tenants are very poor and need much support. Many of the same problems are brewing in St. Louis and all over the country. Written by Paul Dribin

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

A thoughtful article about rent control

More About Housing Tax Credits

Much is being written and discussed about the Governor’s decision to terminate Missouri State Affordable Housing Tax Credits. The loss of these credits will make affordable housing difficult to do and adversely affect a certain category of poor person. I am not in favor of eliminating these credits simply because there is really nothing else to work with in the affordable housing arena.

Nevertheless, the greed of some members of the affordable housing industry made this decision by the Governor inevitable. There are many developers, syndicators, attorneys, and consultants who have gotten rich off the program. Too much of a dollar of tax credits does not go for actual housing expenses. Many in the industry do not really care about poor people.

In addition, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program is both inefficient and ineffective. Inefficient for the reasons cited above plus a hugely complicated program. Ineffective because the program does not house poor people who need it the most. Tenants still must pay a $400-$600 monthly rent. Homeless people need not apply.

If the traditional public housing program was allowed the same per unit expenditures and site location it would have been a more efficient and effective housing program. Unfortunately, anything that smacks of public involvement is frowned upon these days. 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

St. Louis Housing Authority

Yesterday’s discussion about HOPE VI provides for a natural lead in to today’s discussion about the St. Louis Housing Authority. The authority controls thousands of conventional, section 8, and tax credit projects. Their work has been exceptional. They have been led for many years by Cheryl Lovell who quietly has created a powerhouse organization.

Back before Cheryl took over the housing authority was typically considered trouble and on HUD’s bad list. Negative stories about the authority were common in the media. The reforms started under Tom Costello and continued under Cheryl. They have completed revitalized their older projects, collect more rent, and have contracted out their property management. Written by Paul Dribin

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