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Ferguson apartment dwellers make the best of their situation

Mariah Vasser, 6, rides her bike in the Northwinds Apartments on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. A fence, topped with barbed wire, separates the apartments from the neighboring Oakmont Townhome Apartments. Mariah's father, Eldrick Hewitt, who works at Procter and Gamble, moved his family back to the apartments last year but expects to move again to look for a larger place after his rent increases. Photo by Robert Cohen,

ST. LOUIS • While the focus in Ferguson has mainly revolved around law enforcement, Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel asked Thursday for a review of low-income housing policies.

“Of particular concern for residents in the Ferguson areas and surrounding communities is the disproportionately high concentration of low-income housing in North St. Louis County,” Zweifel wrote in a letter to Kip Stetzler, executive director of the Missouri Housing Development Commission.

Among its duties, MHDC inspects and awards low-income housing tax credit projects, of which there are two large ones near West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson — Park Ridge Apartments and Northwinds Apartments. Owners are subsidized for renovating the complexes, with a combined 774 units.

As part of the contract, all residents in the sprawling apartment complexes must earn less than 60 percent of median income to live there.

In recent years, half of all police calls in Ferguson came from a cluster of complexes that include Park Ridge, Northwinds, Oakmont Townhomes, Versailles Apartments and Canfield Green, where Michael Brown was fatally shot by police in August.

Zweifel asked MHDC to consult the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Ferguson Commission about housing issues and that a report with any recommended changes be ready for the MHDC meeting scheduled Feb. 27.

MHDC said it is pulling information together for the report. 

In September, he’d asked for a “quality of life” study of MHDC properties in Ferguson.

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Recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch stories have explained how north St. Louis County has a disproportionate amount subsidized housing, including Section 8 vouchers, a rental assistance program administered by the Housing Authority of St. Louis County.

Besides being state treasurer, Zweifel, originally from Florissant, is a MHDC commissioner.

In his latest letter, he asked MHDC to review “policies and procedures that analyze the need for housing and the existing density of low-income housing in any particular area,” including MHDC housing and other subsidized rental units such as Section 8. He wrote that the MHDC “has a continuing obligation to provide its services in the most responsible way possible. We must ensure that the housing produced is not only affordable and high-quality, but that it is appropriate under the circumstances.”

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Walker Moskop is a data specialist and reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.