St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger creates affordable housing task force, cites Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide
By: NANCY CAMBRIA
Communications Manager, For the Sake of All
Today, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signed an executive order creating a task force to begin the process of building an Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the county.
Stenger announced the news at a press conference at the St. Louis County Health Department before the first meeting of the task force. The 18-member group will help identify available funding sources for the trust fund and steps needed to accelerate its creation.
“The impetus for this action is based on a self-evident truth: that every St. Louis County resident deserves a decent and affordable place to call home,” Stenger said.
The creation of a trust fund for affordable housing in St. Louis County was one of 11 policy recommendations in the new community report, Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide. The report was released less than two months ago by For the Sake of All and six local organizations: ArchCity Defenders, AscendSTL, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council (EHOC), Empower Missouri, Invest STL, and Team TIF.
“This is a tremendous advancement made in a very short period of time,” said For the Sake of All Director Dr. Jason Purnell. “We are gratified to see this formation of a task force by County Executive Stenger in keeping with one of the policy recommendations put forward by a collaboration of partners from law, community development, health, and fair housing. We applaud St. Louis County for taking this step towards a more equitable future and hope to see other housing policy changes in the days ahead.”
Earlier this month Dr. Purnell and several partners who created the report were invited to brief Stenger and his staff on the report’s findings and recommendations. Dr. Purnell presented the findings of the report during today’s first meeting of the task force.
Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide presents more than a century of local, state, and federal policies that have contributed to a disturbing geography of segregated housing in our region, as well as data and human stories detailing how this geography of inequity jeopardizes the health and well-being of many residents throughout the region. The report found that much of the affordable housing in the region was segregated, isolated, deteriorating, and inaccessible to areas of opportunity with higher performing schools, employment, healthy food and retail, and primary health care.
Stenger’s executive order today referenced the research from the report Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide and the report’s partners as driving factors in his decision to create a task force on affordable housing. The announcement came a week after significant media coverage that highlighted a new report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that finds those earning a minimum wage can no longer afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the nation.
The County Executive’s swift action on the task force is indeed indicative of the region’s growing concern for equity and the well-being of all of its residents. Affordable housing trust funds provide resources to not only develop new affordable housing, but also provide financial and programmatic supports that enable both renters and homeowners to remain in their housing. The trust funds often provide low-interest loans for housing improvements and other supports to further stabilize neighborhoods.
Members of the task force include several For the Sake of All partners: Karl Guenther, St. Louis Community Builders Network; Chris Krehymeyer, CEO Beyond Housing, who serves as a co-chair; Washington University Assistant Professor Molly Metzger, Team TIF; Gary Parker, director of the Clark-Fox Policy Institute of Washington University in St. Louis; and Will Jordan, CEO of EHOC.
Other policy recommendations have also advanced since the publication of the report. In March, a new coalition was formed to advocate for increased funding to an existing affordable housing trust fund in the City of St. Louis. The coalition has already secured a guarantee from City of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson for an additional $1 million in funding, though advocates say more is needed.
There have also been developments in recommendations regarding tax increment financing (TIF) reform and the creation of legally binding community benefits agreements (CBAs) with developers. Community benefits agreements are negotiated by community members with developers. By design, they often protect residents from gentrification, displacement, and other negative impacts. They also enable communities to require developers to include additional benefits for the surrounding community as part of the development plan.
Recently, a new coalition called Equitable St. Louis began advocating for community benefits agreements region-wide. The group recently published a policy guidebook describing the process of creating such agreements.
Indeed, in University City, many residents and stakeholders are currently demanding the creation of a community benefits agreement to accompany a proposed TIF that would help a developer finance a large retail center at Olive Boulevard and Interstate 170. There has been extensive media coverage on the issue. On May 30th, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial echoed a point made in Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide regarding the negative impact of TIFs on African Americans and low income residents.
“Using TIFs to carve high-dollar shopping centers out of lower-income communities continues to divide the region by race and income,” the editorial said.
Since early May, the St. Louis American has been highlighting the report by publishing a series of columns promoting the recommendations under the heading “Dismantling the Divide.” Additionally, on Twitter, the hashtag #dismantlingthedivide continues to provide considerable public reflection on the report and its recommendations.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Read our partners’ guest columns on housing policy recommendations in the St. Louis American under the heading “Dismantling the Divide.” Topics so far have included: consciously inclusive communities, St. Louis County affordable housing trust fund, City of St. Louis affordable housing trust fund, eviction prevention and tenant protection, and source of income discrimination.
Read the Vice News/Tonic report on Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide. (Part of the story got picked up in the Nigerian Bulletin!)
Listen to the STL Nonprofit News podcast featuring Dr. Jason Purnell and EHOC CEO Will Jordan discussing the collaboration behind the creation of Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide.
Listen to St. Louis Public Radio’s podcast We Live Here. Its current season four is focusing on housing in St. Louis. It’s a good listen.