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Gentrification, Property Taxes and Arson

June 14, 2006 Media, South City 36 Comments

In late April a large condo project under construction on South Grand was destroyed by fire, most likely the work of an arsonist (story on KSDK). Most of the reaction was the same. But, it was bound to be said by someone:

Condos on south grand destroyed by arsonist, asshole developers, hipsters and yuppies delayed in their quest to gentrify the area.
I caught this in the paper the other day. I don’t know much about the housing situation in the South Grand but I do know the area is becoming gentrified. It looks like someone got sick of all of the hipsters and empty nesters moving in to these $200,000-$300,000 condos and jacking up the property tax. Good for them.

The above is from a Charlie Decker at the St. Louis Indy Media Center (see post & comments). Where do I begin? I guess arson is as good of place as any. Arson is never justified! People’s property is damaged or destroyed (adjacent occupied homes caught on fire) and firefighter’s lives are placed at high risk. No way can the means justify the ends. I’m saddened that some in our society fail to see this and would instead say, “good for them.”

Gentrification is a really difficult issue. How is it defined and how is it applied? One dictionary said to “improve to middle-class taste.” Well, that can be a scary thought because most middle-class Americans like suburbia. I’ve argued before and I will say it again, we need to be continually mindful of affordable housing options throughout our city. But we must improve our housing stock and we must have a diverse population, including based on income. With this we will have change, some good and some bad.

St. Louis is an empty place. We’ve got roughly 350K people within our limits. Another 100K would fit pretty easy. Even a total of 600K would be feasible if we planned for such a density. Adding more residents will change the landscape. Retail stores will differ to meet the needs of the residents. Frankly, I don’t want to live in a poor neighborhood anymore than I do a wealthy neighborhood. I want to live in a highly mixed neighborhood with people from all backgrounds. To a degree I have that here with some low-income rentals adjacent to me and a neighbor a bit further down in the same block driving a new Mercedes that cost more than my house. This is good, we need people.

Property taxes, this is the biggest misconception. Yes, new construction and fancy rehabs increase the value of adjacent properties but the current situation places the tax burden on too few people. Increasing the number of taxable properties will spread the tax burden to more people. More people funding our local government can only help the situation.

Property taxes will rise if we don’t bring in more residents. The poor struggling to pay their property taxes will find that even if their home value remains level or drops the rate will need to rise, as allowed by state law, to cover the cost of governance. I’ll stick with more people sharing the costs as being better for everyone, including the poor.

Last night two additional projects under construction, both in Lafayette Square, burned (story). I seriously hope the above mentality is not responsible for such actions.

– Steve

 

Currently there are "36 comments" on this Article:

  1. Higher property taxes could eventually remove the earnings tax, so this should be kept in mind. The reason we have an earnings tax, along with many other cities, is due to the amount of services STL provides, and the lack of property taxes.

    Gentrification is a negative process when blacks are completely removed from historically black neighborhoods, and this applies to any other ethnic minority. I would prefer to see a mix of new, expensive developments, to lower incoming housing. The ratio is usually 8-1 I believe. The key to sustaining low-income housing is to not concentrate it in one area. Lower incoming housing must be absorbed into nicer areas at this ratio of 8 middle-high income homes to 1 lower income home. This way a balance can be maintained, and the lower income residents have positive community role models, as well as, City services that are often denied or cut in concentrated low-income areas.

    Complete gentrification is bad, but so is complete concentration of low-income housing.

    Rent control could be a way to keep the rent of the lower incoming houses level, while the property taxes increase, thus tenants would not have to pay increase rent which correlates with increasing property taxes.

     
  2. The only viable plan that I’ve seen for eliminating the earnings tax is revenue sharing between St. Louis and St. Louis County.

    Rent control is an interesting idea, Doug — just not on the old NYC model, under which the controls are tied to each unit no matter what the household income is.

    Gentrification is a complex issue, and I certainly side against displacement, privatization of public services on a “client” model and homogenization (Left Bank Books over Borders for me!). The problem I have with some rhetoric against gentrification is that it overlooks who is really organizing against crime and derelict buildings. In my neighborhood, yuppies haven’t been organizing neighborhood patrols against drug dealers or calling in nuisance properties (many of which belong to a wealthy developer anyway). The people doing this hard work tend to be young and far from well-off. Most of us have anywhere from one-third to one-half of our incomes going toward housing expenses. Are we gentrifying, or are we simply working to make our neighborhood safe? Most people targeted for crime here are poor or close to it. While some city-hating anarch may call me a gentrifier because I’m actually relaying my bowing back wall instead of letting it fall down, I can say that relaying the back wall ensures that I will be short on money at even Soulard Market the next time I’m buying food. And I’m not planning to sell my house anytime soon, if ever, so the only thing I’m getting out of my wall project is a sturdy wall and one more neighborhood building that won’t fall down.

    There is responsible criticism of gentrification, but I wouldn’t look to Indymedia to find it.

     
  3. Michael,

    I believe a system of rent control could be established which takes into account houshold income, property taxes, and market value of the property which is being rented.

    Keep the rent at a level which is below market prices, and in proportion to household income.

    My main concern is that the property owner should not pass along rent increases, due to increased taxes, to their tennants if total household tennant income is at a low level.

    The property owner should pay the property tax, as they hold the title to the property. They maintain the building, and they pay the mortgage, therefore they should pay the taxes. Tennants are renting the property, and do not have any property rights to the building, therefore should not pay increased rent due to taxes. Increasing the rent on tennants is defacto paying property taxes on property which they do not own.

    All of this would require city ordinances, and this probably will not happen any time soon.

     
  4. Wil says:

    Self styled revolutionaries suck,

    Michael – you raise good questions concerning the nature of gentrification, it is a careful balance of all parties to achieve a “functional neighborhood”

    The quote from Steve’s commentary is truly sad and represents an anti-gentrification zealot usually no more than ex-suburbanite turned “bourgeoisie radicals” who took one too many social science classes at university, and now feel compelled to appoint themselves as a guardian of what they perceive as a victimized class, by making victims of another.

    I don’t know if gentrification is as much a race issue as a class issue, I have seen “glorious heroes of the post modern relevance revolution” that can be just as intolerant as those suburban middle class folks whom they deride. The only difference of course is the ironic twist that they preach “tolerance” whilst hurling verbal (or maybe in this case literal) Molotov Cocktails.

    That being said, the evidence is not in on this one. Could be a union issue, could be just a screwed up pyromaniac. Either way itÂ’s sad, and a set back for the city, but not one that can be overcome.

     
  5. Scott says:

    Doug,

    Rent control may sound like a good idea for developers or rich owners of multifamily dwellings, but how about an owner occupant of a duplex? Let us not forget that not all property owners are yuppies who are over charging to make a buck. Rent control could price owner occupants out of a neighborhood as well, limiting their ability to adjust rental rates to absorb additional costs.

     
  6. Jim Zavist says:

    Doug,

    Rent control is NOT the answer! If the costs for a rental property do not cover its expenses, the first thing to go is maintenance. The only way an owner can afford to “maintain the building, pay the mortgage, and pay the taxes” is from the rents it generates. If taxes go up, it’s because the tenants (and other city residents) are receiving more services (or paying more for the same or reduced services)!

    Reinvestment is a good thing. No one is guaranteed affordable rent (and there’s lots of affordable rental property around here, as well as property to purchase). If you want a beter place to live, you need to find a better job, not expect to receive a subsidy from society!

    Gentrification IS a tough issue to resolve. The bottom line is that poorer residents do get displaced. The flipside is that the neighborhood improves its housing stock, attracts new businesses and the City gets more tax revenues. Is it “fair”? It depends on which side of the eviction notice you’re on. It sucks getting told to move. It’s great if you can sell your property at a good price and realize the “American Dream”.

    The real issue here isn’t the loss of affordable housing, it’s the loss of the good paying jobs. If you’re earning more, the affordability equation ships upwards (you’ll never be able to afford everything you want). The trek from North City to South City to Shrewsbury to Webster Groves to Ladue is one of increasing wealth, not government control of housing costs!

     
  7. Roo says:

    Those fires today are eery, I rode my bike by both those prorperties last nite around 7. This might be crazy but couldn’t you pay tax based on the assesed value when you bought the house, then when you sell you would owe the back taxes on the increase in assessed value while you owned it? I know that doesn’t help the city but it would keep people from being booted from houses they paid 30k for just cause the neighbor just paid 200k.

     
  8. Jim,

    I am not talking about across the board rent control regardless of income. I am only talking about rent control for lower income residents. If property owners balance their properties to include both higher income, and lower income tenants, then the higher income residents could pay increased rent to offset the rent control for lower income residents.

    This is a subsidy, however your free market libertarian solution to this problem will simply leave low-income residents clustered in neighborhoods of poverty. In order to reduce poverty, we must assimilate lower income residents into higher income neighborhoods at a ratio that does not harm the neighborhood.

    With lower income residents absorbed into higher income neighborhoods, and with rent control, property owners could offset the cost of the rent control onto the higher income earners.

    You might say this is unfair, however I believe it is unfair to force lower income residents to pay higher rent when they do not own property. Furthermore, I think it is just for higher income residents to pay higher rent, while lower income residents pay lower, controlled rent. The best solution for property owners is to rent their property to both higher income, and lower income tenants. Blending of the classes will remove stereotypes thereby enabling the classes to work together to solve problems. This benefits the underclass the most because they receive community support, improved services, and a brighter outlook. With community support, perhaps they could rise out of the lower classes, thus the future need for this rent control could be reduced.

    Isolating low-income housing in strictly low-income areas usually produces children that emulate the low-income lifestyle. Coupled with horrible schools, these lower income children have a greater likelihood of dealing drugs, as opposed to a college education. If we surround low-income citizens with relatively wealthy, and safe environment, then perhaps instead of dealing drugs, their children will seek a brighter future which they witness every day.

     
  9. Sam Snelling says:

    Gotta love St. Louis. We don’t support progress, we burn it down.

     
  10. why here? says:

    What is completely ignorant about this whole deal is that to me, the Tower Grove area is a great example of mixed income, mixed housing and diversity. You can find cheap apartments, high end condo renovations and middle of the road homes. It is horrible what these morons are doing, but on the flip side, these idiots are choosing the wrong section of the city and region to make their case

     
  11. oakland says:

    Roo said:
    This might be crazy but couldn’t you pay tax based on the assesed value when you bought the house, then when you sell you would owe the back taxes on the increase in assessed value while you owned it? I know that doesn’t help the city but it would keep people from being booted from houses they paid 30k for just cause the neighbor just paid 200k.

    Because the city wants (and needs) its fair share of money now, not a little bit of cash now and IOUs to be settled in some indeterminate time in the future when property owners sell. This plan would tie city revenue to external uncontrollable factors. What if interest rates go up and property sales slow down?

    Doug Duckworth said
    You might say this is unfair, however I believe it is unfair to force lower income residents to pay higher rent when they do not own property. Furthermore, I think it is just for higher income residents to pay higher rent, while lower income residents pay lower, controlled rent.

    So how do you protect landlords? If a landlord owns a multifamily property in an area where your form of rent control ordinances are in effect and the only people who show up to rent are low-income tenants that he would have to charge cut rate rent, how is protected from taking a bath? Quotas?

    Or if I own a duplex with two high-income tenants, and one moves out to have a low-income tenant move in, am I supposed to tell the second guy that I have to jack his rent up because the tenant next door makes less money?

    Implementing a system that effectively required landlords to own enough property to offest legally forced losses is not the solution.

     
  12. Dustin says:

    “If we surround low-income citizens with relatively wealthy, and safe environment, then perhaps instead of dealing drugs, their children will seek a brighter future which they witness every day. ” [group hug]

    Doug,

    I used to think that too, but anectdotally it doesn’t seem to work. There is now evidence that displacement of the concentrated poverty and crime from the now erased McCree Town has spread a bad seed to nearby neighborhoods with a long history of being affordable yet stable. I fear that stability is being lost due to the troublemakers being relocated. I like your optimism but one bad apple on the block can change things quickly. Those who you think will be good role models typically have the economic advantage of being able to move if they are uncomfortable with anti-social behavior. Largely leaving those who have fewer ecomomic choices and therefore neglect their properties and attract more blight. And the circle continues… I have seen it and heard the stories from people who have been fighting for this city for 30 years. I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but I am sure that wholesale demolition of entire neighborhoods is not the answer — you can’t blame the buildings. I know the people in Shaw feel differently, but now they are mostly rid of the problem people even though they have their indigenous probelms.

    As a rental property owner that operates on a VERY slim margin, rent control of any kind would simply put me out of business. I command the highest rents in the neighborhood because I have the nicest properties and my tenants are willing to pay for that. I screen my tenants rigorously and have been lucky enough to find people who apprecitate the architecture and neighborhood enough to choose to live there. I choose to live there too. I bought properties that had a long history of poor management and deffered maintenance in an effort to improve the neighborhood where I live while building a little nest egg for myself. So far it is working well. I have neighbors knocking on my door asking me to buy properties on the block when they come up for sale. Not all landlords are greedy corporations taking advantage of the poor. I suspect there are many in my situation that simply could not survive if they could not pass on all their costs to their tenants. That’s how it works. Landlords take a lot of risks that renters do not. They should be rewarded for this by expecting a reasonable profit for a good product. Renters are unwilling or unable to assume that risk and therefore must pay a premium for that.

     
  13. Everyone,

    Good counterarguments. Maybe with this wonderful form of communication, a solution could be found, hopefully soon.

    Heres to Steve for putting the time and money to keep this blog online.

     
  14. Just wondering says:

    “It is horrible what these morons are doing, but on the flip side, these idiots are choosing the wrong section of the city and region to make their case”

    What would the “right” place be to do this?

     
  15. jeff says:

    I think the argument is that if their “agenda” is associated with maintaining cheap hoising, there are certainly other neighborhoods where arson would more effectively meet those goals. The developments that were burned aren’t in any way reducing the cheap housing stock or otherwise raising the rents on cheap housing, owing to the fact they are in the middle of an expensive bubble.

     
  16. travis reems says:

    Rent control in the form of what Doug is talking about–means tested–does somewhat exist in the form of housing assistance from Section 8. While rent control is totally unnecessary in the city of St. Louis–we have very low rents, starting as low as $300 per month–housing assistance in the form of vouchers is a much better idea than the old-style housing projects of the 1960s and 1970s, which typically ended-up as defacto ghettos that encouraged segregation.

    I’ve not spoken to officials at the housing authority recently, but when I last talked with them, they shared that there is currently a waiting list due to the fact of not enough available housing and not enough funding for the program. There is a stigma against Section 8 renters, but like any tenants–market or subsidized–it comes down to good screening. So, we obviously need more landlords to open their units to good, otherwise qualified subsidized tenants, and possibly additional funding to the housing assistance program.

     
  17. newsteve says:

    Why should property owners, just by virtue of the fact that they choose to rent property they own, become the bankrollers for low income residents. Many landlords, for sure, do not properly maintain their properties or provide services that other higher rent properties may recieve, yet, in both cases, often times, the landlord, whether renting to low income or high income renters, is operating on slim margin. Suggesting that the property owner should just eat the higher tax payments and not pass them on through rent seems unfair and unrealistic. That would be like saying that your local grocery store can’t pass on the higher cost of milk due to the delivery service’s higher fuel costs to its low income customers. The grocery store wouldnt stay open very long if that were the case. Unfortunately, rent control would likely put the good and bad landlords out of business as well.

     
  18. Trevor Acorn says:

    Good discussion all around! Gentrification is indeed and intriguing and difficult problem.

    I have a very simply solution that, as I understand it, has been successful in many other places both in America and abroad. That is, a spilt rate property tax system.

    Why?

    Look at all the vacant and empty lots in St. Louis. The city gets very little tax money from all that property because there are either no buildings or the buildings are falling apart. Yet, these owners are occurring the same sorts of land nice buildings down the street are yet without the tax burden. Same services (roads, sewer, utilities, bus, etc.) and same or similar locational benefits (close to city center) yet they pay substantially less on the tax bill. Why?

    I propose that we split the property tax bill into two sections, “land” and “improvements” (this is done in many other counties in America) and then raise the tax on land while lowering the tax on buildings. This could be a revenue neutral tax shift or a means of increasing the total revenue for the city.

    This tax shift would result in, basically, putting a fire under the ass of lazy/slow property owners. They will have to do something with their property or sell it to someone who will. AT THE SAME TIME it will relieve a good portion of the tax bill that falls on those that have improved their property and thus (here’s the cool part) decrease the gentrification affect of rising property values.

    In the end this will mean more rehabs and less gentrification.

    (By the way, this is the same tax plan James Kunstler advocates in “Home from Nowhere”)

     
  19. travis reems says:

    What Trevor is advocating is somewhat similar to how the tax abatements work in the city. For those not familiar with tax abatements, and how they operate in St. Louis, available to developers and rehabbers are tax freezes (was 15 years, then 10, and now for 5). The reason I call them freezes is because, unlike in some other cities, there is still taxation on the property, but it is frozen at the pre-construction or pre-rehab rate. If the property was a vacant lot, then the taxation is on the unimproved land. If the property was in poor shape, the taxation is without increase in assessment due to the improvements in the property.

    This system works somewhat similar to what Trevor discussed, in that those vacant land owners’ taxes are not decreased due to no improvement, whereas the taxes of the improved property, while actually frozen, are really a decrease in what they would be if they were to be re-assessed.

    Now, the purpose of tax abatement is obviously different than in the plan Trevor proposes. The purpose of tax abatement is clearly to incent the improvement of property, as opposed to punish vacant land holders, which I would guess the city is a, if not the, largest owner in the form of LRA.

    So, if the purpose is to incent building and improvements in structures, I’d suggest we stick with a system of tax abatements. Although, I would also recommend some alterations to the current method.

     
  20. Jim Zavist says:

    just a clarification . . . rehabbing and gentrification are not mutually exclusive – a good rehab project can easily result in gentrification . . .

     
  21. Jeff says:

    So let’s stick to bad rehab jobs to avoid gentrification.

     
  22. Jeff says:

    Just caught the tail end of your interview on Channel 5… nice work.

    [REPLY – Darn, I was going to watch for it but I took the TV out of my home office on purpose. However, it is now online at http://ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=98553 – SLP]

     
  23. ps says:

    rumors are running rampant that the fires are due to using non-union labor…but gilded age used bsi, and they were union contractors…it just seems a tad bit fishy…

    [REPLY – Anytime you get three such fires it is more than a tad fishy. I’m not so convinced on the union issue. I think it was either a crazy arsonist or someone upset about gentrification (or a combination of the two). – SLP]

     
  24. Steve Wilke-Shapiro says:

    There is an excellent WORKING model of ensuring long-term housing affordability in neighborhoods where property values are increasing. It’s called a Community Land Trust – we have one operating in St. Louis called Red Brick CLT (not to be confused with Rothschild’s Red Brick property management company).

    Visit the Institute of Community Economics for more information on Community Land Trusts.

    Essentially a CLT separates the value of the land from the value of the improvements on the land. The CLT, as a non-profit organization with a board of directors, acquires land and leases it with a long-term renewable lease to the homeowner. When the owner decides to move, the land lease requires that the home (and other improvements on the land) be sold back to the CLT or another lower-income household based on a pre-established resale formula. This formula allows for the owner to recapture some increased value due to property appreciation or owner improvements, while still ensuring that the property remains affordable for the next buyer.

    I don’t think Red Brick CLT has their web site up and running yet, but they are working on a large CLT development in Bohemian Hill (44 and Gravois) in addition to a growing list of scattered sites primarily around the Soulard area.

    Again, this is a model that is already working in St. Louis – no need for government intervention, public subsidy, or rewriting tax law. Check into it – it’s worth exploring!

    For more information on RBCLT, contact Mark Bohnert at 314-621-1411.

     
  25. Anonymous says:

    A city of 352,000 people is not an “empty place”. St. Louis is still one of the densest city’s around.

    I do think economic and social diversity are important. But there’s too much emphasis placed on how many people live within a city’s limits. Although St. Louis doesn’t have 800,000 people anymore, is that really important? A great quality of life needs to be emphasized more. St. Louis’ population numbers do not handicap it, and I wish more people thought realized this.

    I’ve lived in large cities and small towns, and I would prefer a nice city with a high quality life vs. one with 800,000 people and all kinds of social, economic, environmental, educational, government problems, etc.

    I think you are right, however, when you suggest that it takes people of all economic backgrounds to make a city work and people need to recognize this fact. If these new properties are being torched because radicals are against gentrification – they are not operating in the best interest of St. Louis. They are against St. Louis developing to its fullest potential.

    [REPLY If you judge St. Louis by the intersection of say Euclid & Maryland you would indeed think St. Louis is dense. However, reality is quite different. We have huge areas which are sparsly populated.

    Our infrastructure costs for the schools & city need more tax paying citizens to maintain a minimum qualify of life. The current population vs. current expenses is not sustainable long term. Another 100,000 people would help the tax situation but also help the quality of life. This would create a need for more business which would provide more jobs. More local business would make it easier to walk or bike to a store rather than being auto-dependent. These are real quality of life issues. -SLP]

     
  26. “I’ve lived in large cities and small towns, and I would prefer a nice city with a high quality life vs. one with 800,000 people and all kinds of social, economic, environmental, educational, government problems, etc.”

    How about a city of 352,000 with all kinds of social, economic, environmental, educational, government problems? That is one aspect of St. Louis today. Its not all rehabbing and development.

     
  27. Anonymous:

    There are many blocks on the north side where only one occupied home remains, and trash service has been discontinued to those blocks.

    Most northsiders really want more neighbors.

    The loss of population was not evenly distributed across the city — it hit the northside harder than any part of the city. Essentially, half of the entire city exists at less than half of its population density in 1960. That’s a big problem for those people who do live there, trying to get good police, sewer and garbage service as well as neighborhood resources like schools and libraries. (Recall that 16 of the 17 schools [closed] in 2003 were north of Delmar.)

     
  28. tina says:

    discussion of a recent study on gentrification:
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-04-19-gentrification_x.htm?POE=click-refer

    “…When they studied New York City and Boston, respectively, they found that poor and less educated residents of gentrifying neighborhoods actually moved less often than people in other neighborhoods — 20% less in New York. … A poor resident’s chances of being forced to move out of a gentrifying neighborhood are only 0.5% greater than in a non-gentrifying one.”

     
  29. Anonymous says:

    “The loss of population was not evenly distributed across the city — it hit the northside harder than any part of the city. Essentially, half of the entire city exists at less than half of its population density in 1960. That’s a big problem for those people who do live there, trying to get good police, sewer and garbage service as well as neighborhood resources like schools and libraries. (Recall that 16 of the 17 schools [closed] in 2003 were north of Delmar.)”

    While this true, Steve mentioned that “St. Louis” was an empty place. He did not say “Hyde Park” or “parts of Jeff Vander Lou” or “College Hill”. He said “St. Louis”, which is why I responded like I did. If he had said parts of north city, we wouldn’t be having this exchange.

    While it is true that areas of St. Louis’ northside have suffered tremendous depopulation, the city, as a whole, is more dense in population than other larger cities across this country because of its boundaries, which was my point. It contradicts the notion that St. Louis is an “empty place”. Is the density spotty in some parts of town? Certainly. But this isn’t even unique to St. Louis. Even NYC has spotty density.

    “If you judge St. Louis by the intersection of say Euclid & Maryland you would indeed think St. Louis is dense. However, reality is quite different. We have huge areas which are sparsly populated.”

    You said “St. Louis” not the intersection of Euclid & Maryland or even Cass at North Grand. You said, “St. Louis”. Despite these sparsely populated areas if you measure St. Louis’ square mileage and its current population it has respectable population density compared to larger cities, which was my point. St. Louis’ pop. density doesn’t change despite sparse areas. Furthermore, I have no doubt there is sparse population in parts of city, but ultimately, what is considered an “empty city” is mostly subjective. (See response above too.)

    “Our infrastructure costs for the schools & city need more tax paying citizens to maintain a minimum qualify of life. The current population vs. current expenses is not sustainable long term. Another 100,000 people would help the tax situation but also help the quality of life. This would create a need for more business which would provide more jobs. More local business would make it easier to walk or bike to a store rather than being auto-dependent. These are real quality of life issues. -SLP]”

    I think we share the same opinion.

    [REPLY – I do think we have a similar view. However, I think you are getting caught up in words. I believe, overall, that St. Louis is “empty.” Not ghost town empty but not bustling sidewalk huge mass transit full either. We need greater density throughout the city. – SLP]

     
  30. Jason Toon says:

    I think it’s kind of ridiculous to assume, as so many are here, that the fires were set by somebody “upset about gentrification”. Let’s not forget the epic corruption that St. Louis is still afflicted with. Is it out of the realm of possibility that a rival developer is behind these fires – somebody developing condos somewhere else who has an interest in creating a perception that the city is too dangerous a place to build and/or live in?

    If you’ve ever had to get your car out of a city-contracted impound lot, you know there’s a lot of dangerous sleaze percolating under the surface of this town. I’ll be astonished if some crusty punk kids (or a random lunatic) are behind these highly effective, professional, well-timed arsons.

     
  31. MAC says:

    Doug Duckworth Posted:
    “Lower incoming housing must be absorbed into nicer areas at this ratio of 8 middle-high income homes to 1 lower income home. This way a balance can be maintained, and the lower income residents have positive community role models, as well as, City services that are often denied or cut in concentrated low-income areas.”

    Comment: This is a fairly recent liberal notion that has been demonstrated to destabilize neigborhoods. Neigborhoods go into decline when they become penetrated by elements destructive of property values. The social attitudes that go along with low incomes is what middle class families are fleeing when they desert a neigborhood. People crave a stable environment. But the social engineers that propose a one-in- eight ratio of low income properties in every neigborhood are forcing a time bomb into the neighborhood. The process of decline is already well in motion when the neigborhood is still on the drawing board. The one in eight formula is a visability concept. When low income/low values residents are kept at such a low level, it is not readily apparent to the bulk of homebuyers that there is a problem with the neigborhood. But high-density, low income housing is much more unstable in it’s property values. Once the newness wears off, these cramped, econo-box apartments suffer a much more rapid decline in value than the middle and upperclass areas of the neigborhood. The rents these fading properties can command, goes into an early decline. The quality of your low income social element also takes a turn for the worse. In a fairly short period of time the middle-class elements begin to recognize the trend of things and overall values go into decline as people flee this instability.
    Keep in mind that no developer sees a 1 in 8 ratio as a selling point for the area. One in Eight is a formula that is jammed down his throat by foolishly idealistic elements that seize control of the government agencies that must approve any development. But, ultimatly, it is the unsuspecting homebuyer that pays the price for such wrongheaded notions as the one-in-eight formula.

     
  32. MAC says:

    Re Rent Controls

    The marketplace really does an excellent job of setting prices. Those who would introduce a political process into price-setting (rent control) are well-meaning but not really very pratical people. Its unfortunate that we all can’t live in nice places for next to nothing. But political solutions will never over-rule the economic realities of this world. Anyone who proposes such foolishness as rent controls should be made to actually learn something about economics.

     
  33. MAC says:

    Re: The suggestion in the Post-Dispatch that the arsonist was motivated by and anti-development agenda.

    Folks, you have to realize that the Post, like most liberal rags in this country, have their own agenda and bias. They will publish such notions as this speculation on the arsonists motives without doing any research at all. My guess is that when we discover who did this crimes we will see it was by a couple of thrill seeking teens.

     
  34. MAC says:

    Re: Greedy Landlords

    Tell me where the greedy impulse really lies. Where you have:
    A) A businessman who invests his resources in housing on the chance that someone will choose to accept what he has to offer, resulting in him making a profit.

    B) Individuals who seek to use legislation to force housing owners to rent property for below its real value and cost to produce.

    The only justification for begrudging anyone what they possess, is if they built this wealth by by unfair government intervention in the form of pricing rigging, tax policies and the like. Where freemarket exchanges result in a benefit accrueing to someone, that is entirely appropriate.

     
  35. MAC says:

    Re: The need to uplift lower income residents by association with middle-class citizens.

    Someone once said that “Poor people have poor ways.” The problem is not that the poor lack good role models in the neigborhood. The first problem is that they lack good role models in the home: Too often you have parents that are under-educated and fail to promote the value of education to their children. Too often you have parents that failed to avoid having children too soon and too often. Too often you have parents who don’t go to work every day. Too often you have parents who simply are not committed to establishing the stable home environment that children require to thrive. Too often you have parents who are simply not committed to the social development of their children. The problem is that the poor have a culture that does not promote them doing constructive things to better their lives and the lives of their children. Our values are formed in the home not in what we observe on the street. Raising children who will climb out of poverty requires a massive effort by committed parents.
    The formula for social progress is a simple one:
    Graduate from high-school
    Delay childbearing
    Go to work every day
    Save money and invest in a home
    Most people know these are important things. But there is something in the culture of the poor that is sending out counter-productive messages.

     
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