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The St Louis Contrarian

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

Archive for the tag “Racism”

HUD is Cutting Back on Fair Housing Enforcement

nyti.ms/2GBqzsw

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

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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

Racial Homeownership Rate

The St. Louis Post Dispatch published an interesting article yesterday about the disparity in homeownership between African Americans and whites. The gap in St. Louis is about 29% with white people owning more homes. This gap increased as a result of the 2008 recession.

Nothing in this story is surprising to me. Homeownership rates are a sign of economic well being; unfortunately African Americans are not as solid economically as whites for the same reason there are other gaps. St. Louis saw a bigger disparity arise out of the recession. This is also not surprising because due to racism, segregation, and similar factors African Americans are forced to live a more marginal existence in St. Louis. More inner city neighborhoods, where blacks disproportionately buy are more likely to see a loss of value in a recession, and slower increases in good times.

St. Louis as a Place to Live

I have a very good perspective on St Louis having grown up in Chicago and living here for 21 years.  In spite of itself, St Louis is a great place to live.   The culture and restaurants are first class. It is a great sports town and housing is quite affordable. You can get anywhere fairly quickly.  

Why have things not taken off here. There are several reasons 

1.  Racism.  Most of the other problems, crime, education, jobs, and dysfunctional government come from or racist traditions 

2.  Crime.  People around the country hear about crime in St. Louis and don’t want to move here.

3.  Education.  Many school systems are still a mess 

4. Cronyism. By cronyism I mean the strong tendency of people from St. Louis to pick there high school friends for key jobs and not consider outsiders. 

5. Dysfunctional government. This speaks for itself and is related to the other problems. 

We know what it takes to correct these issues. We have had lots of studies. Do we have the leadership and political will to make the changes?   Written. By Paul Dribin 

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