We are a local community development corporation that focuses on the institutional, attitudinal and behavioral causes of rigid housing segregation.
We are especially interested in identifying and deconstructing the interwoven systemic social and economic forces that underpin segregation. We are currently focusing on the “Delmar Divide” and the “Olive Boulevard Divide” in St Louis County.
Low-income Housing Tax Credits
One such force we are investigating is the practice of concentrating low-income housing tax credit projects in poorer neighborhoods – with the understanding, that doing so suppresses housing values in those submarkets and is a causal factor in the creation of “pockets of poverty.”
WITH ACTION exposed (in UniversityCity) the practice of concentrating low-income housing tax credit projects in poorer neighborhoods. Two Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects proposed in the Northeast and Musick neighborhoods were blocked by WITH by informing the community that such projects suppress housing values and is a causal factor in the creation of “pockets of poverty.”
Low Value Houses
WITH is examining the patterns and practices that result in unavailability of mortgage funds for homes under $50,000. The absence of sources of mortgage credit for home purchases in the lower-cost price range blocks lower-income families’ access to homeownership and forces them to rent shelter at exorbitant monthly rates. The St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank held a seminar on Low Value Mortgages at our urging. WITH Action was one of the featured panelists at the event.
WITH is also committed to creating an effective counterforce to the
institutionalized redlining that is a consequence of biased real estate appraisal and bank-lending practices.
Proposed CRA Rule Changes by HUD
Current CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) rules need to be reformed, but not in the way that these proposed rules have been drafted. In St. Louis County, banks have not lived up to their CRA obligations in predominately African American low-income neighborhoods. In fact, in the St. Louis region, the current CRA rules have been ineffective in dealing with the sustained redlining practices that CRA was supposed to rectify.
WITH Action believes that any reform to the CRA rules need to remain place based, but also with a conscious understanding that low-income neighborhoods are by definition weak real estate markets. Banks need to provide mortgage investments for a full range of incomes, not just low income households in order for them to become healthy mixed-income neighborhoods. In addition, CRA rules should incentivize banks to provide low-income affordable housing outside low income neighborhoods in higher income “opportunity” neighborhoods to undo racial and income segregation that still persist today.
Proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule changes
WITH Action expressed opposition to HUD’s proposed changes to the 2015
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. WITH Action strongly urge HUD to withdraw the proposed rule and fully implement the current 2015 rule, which was developed over several years with considerable input from a wide variety of stakeholders.
Examination of Segregation on St. Louis County
WITH Action recently examined the outcomes of St. Louis County’s submission under the minimal Fair Housing Act compliance process that existed from 1994 to 2015. St. Louis County did not participate in the initial round of communities that submitted their 2016-2020 Consolidation Plan under the new 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. We found that none of the identified impediments and proposed solutions to affordable housing were addressed. More importantly, the housing policies and programs did not reduce segregation in the County. In fact, segregated neighborhoods were maintained and expanded.
WITH Action contacted the County Council member whose district has been
impacted by St. Louis County use of federal housing fund. We are in the process of guiding County staff responsible for producing the next 5 year Consolidated Plan toward promoting AFFH outcomes.
Olive/I-170 TIF Plan Strategy
WITH Action was responsible for introducing a great economic development opportunity that would not only redevelop a low-performing commercial portion of the Olive Corridor at I-170, but also to provide an economic engine to address the structural structural decline of the adjacent residential neighborhoods of the third ward.
The primary purpose for inviting a commercial redevelopment project of the magnitude of the Olive/I-170 project, was to support the regeneration of the Third Ward housing market by acting as the economic engine that provides money for its recovery.
Once the funding source has been secured, the next crucial step is for the City to develop a long- term strategic redevelopment plan for the Third Ward, ideally involving all stakeholders, but most importantly, neighborhood residents. The systemic practices working to ruin these neighborhoods are very real and the city has to do something quickly to counter them with pro-active policies, strategies and programs that are transformational. That is why a very detailed plan has to be completed with a number of strategic stakeholders and the residents of the
three neighborhoods to realize their goals.
A Prescription for a STRATEGIC APPROACH TO THIRD WARD REVITALIZATION
Once the funding source has been secured, the next crucial step is for the City to develop a long-term strategic redevelopment plan for the Third Ward. This plan ideally involves all stakeholders, but most importantly, neighborhood residents. The outside forces working to ruin these neighborhoods are very real and require City intervention to counter them with pro-active policies, strategies and programs that can cause transformation.
For this reason, WITH Action, a not for profit citizen advocacy organization, is presenting City Council with an analysis of existing damaging policies and practices and a strategic agenda that specifically address housing and
neighborhoods issues north of Olive Boulevard. Hopefully, this insight will
influence and guide the new revitalization strategy for the 3rd Ward.