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Affordable housing trust fund introduced in St. Louis County

Affordable housing trust fund introduced in St. Louis County

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CLAYTON — St. Louis County will have a trust fund to help increase the availability of safe and inexpensive housing if the County Council passes legislation introduced Tuesday by Councilwoman Lisa Clancy.

The move comes after years of recommendations from community leaders, residents and the county’s own Affordable Housing Trust Fund Task Force on how to make the county more accessible for vulnerable populations. The bill is co-sponsored by Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray, D-4th District.

Initially, the effort would be funded by 12% of the 1% county sales tax on medical marijuana, an amount expected to be less than $12,000 a year, said Clancy, D-5th District. (She later clarified that the amount is projected to be $50,000.) The council’s presiding officer, Ernie Trakas, R-6th District, noted at a council work session that “the original idea from the county executive’s standpoint was, let’s get it started and then look for other revenue sources as we go forward.”

The measure is likely to go to a preliminary vote at the council’s meeting next week, and to a final vote in two weeks. Two area residents praised the measure in comments to the council Tuesday.

“As I can only assume, many of you grew up being told, as I did, that our only human needs are food, clothing and shelter, yet as a society, we have failed in providing these basic needs,” said Michelle Witthaus, program manager for Health Equity Works, a research project at Washington University that helped produce the 2018 report Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide. Among its key recommendations was funding the city of St. Louis’ affordable housing trust fund. “And that’s where you, as elected officials, get the chance to right some of society’s wrongs.”

Lesley Sexton, a member of the city’s affordable trust fund coalition, told the council, “No one should have to worry about where they’re going to live or whether their house is going to cave in around their lives.”

Clancy’s bill also expands the county’s Housing Resources Commission to 16 members, from seven, and gives the commission the duty to distribute funds received by the county from any source that is provided to support housing.

It would include as members six county residents, at least four of whom live in the county’s most distressed areas. It would also include one real estate professional and seven people who are experts in legal services, fair housing, homeless services, disabled services, lending or other related services.

The bill also prioritizes who will get funding. Single-parent households in poverty with children come first, then households earning less than $35,000 a year, then people 65 or older, then people experiencing homelessness, followed by households experiencing evictions or foreclosures. In most cases, renters will take priority. North St. Louis County will also take priority over other areas, followed by areas with high vacancy rates.

The council also:

• As expected, voted 6-1 to fund the bulk of Bi-State’s request for $164.3 million in funding now, but hold back about $60 million for three months. The aim is to force Bi-State to implement security improvements and require the system to restore MetroBus service the way it operated on Jan. 1. Councilman Mark Harder, R-7th District, cast the only no vote, saying the council should have held back more money to guarantee compliance.

• Voted 7-0 to restrict vendors from contacting county officials during a competitive bidding process. County Executive Sam Page had asked the council to enact a “cone of silence” ordinance to safeguard the integrity of county procurement and contracting.

This story was updated on Wednesday to reflect a clarification on the amount of revenue from a tax on medical marijuana.

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