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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”

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

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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

Hope vi

Hope VI is a now discontinued public housing program that completely rehabilitated distressed public housing projects in this country.   The idea behind the program was to combine physical rehabilitation social services and create mixed income communities. I had the opportunity to work on the Darst Webbe program in the near south side.  That program has been successful in creating a mixed income community and has led to improvements in surrounding neighborhoods. 

Recent research has evaluated HOPE VI.  The program has not really transformed lives and it was noted that displaced public housing residents did not readily move back 

I believe the program has provided urban development benefits but has not significantly improved the lives of residents. The cost is quite high and demolition and new construction may have been cheaper. The jury is still out on mixed income housing. I have serious doubts that given a choice anyone would opt for this type of housing 

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