Affordable Housing Trust Fund Task Force issues report

ST. LOUIS – The Affordable Housing Trust Fund Task Force, convened in June, has concluded its study and presented a report to St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. The group’s objective was to study housing affordability in St. Louis County with a focus on promoting access to areas of opportunity.

The report of recommendations includes goals and corresponding strategies for establishment of the trust fund, eligibility requirements, a governance and administrative framework, and an annual revenue target.

“Having seen firsthand the damage to children and families in St. Louis County caused by a lack of affordable housing, I’m thrilled with the opportunity to serve on this task force,” said Task Force Co-Chair and CEO of Beyond Housing Chris Krehmeyer. “Each task force member brought their own points of view and expertise to create a rich and thorough conversation. I wholeheartedly support these recommendations to help the many local families in need and strengthen our communities.”

Adrian Bracy, Task Force Co-Chair and CEO of YWCA Metro St. Louis, added, “It’s been a privilege to work on this task force with like-minded individuals. Safe, affordable housing should be available to everyone but that is not the case for many of our clients and our area residents. I stand behind these recommendations because I believe they will benefit everyone in St. Louis County.”

County Executive Stenger established the task force last year and appointed its members.

“The impetus for this action was self-evident: that every County resident deserves a decent, affordable place to call home,” said County Executive Stenger. “I want to thank the members of the task force for the tremendous effort they put forth crafting a serious study of the housing challenges that face many in our community.”

In preparing the report, task force members surveyed hundreds of residents and community stakeholders. They spent months examining factors such as poverty, housing cost burden, foreclosures, vacancies, evictions, and homelessness.

The report notes, “The task force’s deliberation included both place-based strategies (how to invest in previously disinvested areas) and mobility-based strategies (how to help low-income households access ‘areas of opportunity’). The task force strongly believes the solution to the affordable housing crisis is not an either/or proposition; the solution lies in supporting both revitalization and creating pathways for very low- and low-income families to move into neighborhoods with existing opportunity.”

The study identifies funding priorities, focusing place-based strategies primarily on inner North County and other areas with high vacancy rates. People eligible for housing assistance would include single-person households in poverty with children, households earning less than $35,000 a year, senior citizens, and those experiencing homelessness, eviction or foreclosure.

In preparation for recommending a governance and administrative framework for an affordable housing trust fund, the task force members analyzed housing trust funds across the country and met with representatives from the City of St. Louis and the state of Missouri. The study proposes a governing board of 13 members to be appointed by the County Executive and subject to confirmation by the County Council.

The task force recommends an annual revenue target of $30 million to $35 million to fund the initiative. The task force co-chairs said the study would serve as the starting point for launching a campaign for funding.

“We believe the proposed benchmark will significantly improve the lives of the many St. Louis County residents who would benefit from the available resources,” said Krehmeyer. “The financial return will far exceed the initial investment by improving housing values and stabilizing communities.”

“Affordable housing reduces social service costs and helps end the cycle of poverty,” said Bracy. “At YWCA, over half of our clients are women who are heads of households. The number one obstacle facing our clients is affordable housing. With more resources for housing, we promote safety, security, and stability for the women and families we serve.”

The task force made a deliberate decision to focus goals on housing stabilization, preservation, and prevention services to allow people to stay in their current homes and avoid the cost of new construction, which would quickly drain available resources.

In addition to outlining a framework for the affordable housing trust fund, the task force also urges St. Louis County policymakers to consider several complementary proposals. These include the adoption of a “Source of Income” law protecting residents who use housing choice vouchers to pay their rent, and implementation of inclusionary zoning that would require developers to make a percentage of units in new residential developments available to low- and moderate-income households.

The report and supporting documents are available here.