Solving the region’s housing problems will take more than one solution from more than one community partner, according to a new report, Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide, released Wednesday.
The reasons why generations of African-American families have been stuck in blighted neighborhoods are complex, the report finds. But there are ways to address the lack of affordable housing, inequitable development and modern-day discriminatory lending practices — and the 115-page report offers a robust list of recommendations.
Produced by a coalition of housing and social justice groups, the report was released on the same day as the St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council (EHOC) and For the Sake of All’s 2018 Fair Housing Conference at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
EHOC, established in 1992, works to end housing segregation in St. Louis. For the Sake of All, founded in 2013, seeks to dismantle systemic racial inequities stifling the St. Louis region’s growth. Other contributing organizations to the report include ArchCity Defenders, Ascend, Empower Missouri, Community Builders Network, Team TIF and others.
The conference celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, and brought together community partners to discuss the recommendations outlined in the report.
Leaders from several community organizations represented in the report and at the conference agreed that a lack of knowledge hindered the implementation of solutions.
“I think a significant part is that people don’t know,” said Jason Purnell, project director at For The Sake of All and associate professor at Washington University. “I also think there are people who do know, and work hard to keep things the way that they are. It’s probably both awareness-raising and more direct advocacy that needs to happen, and the two go hand-in-hand.”
EHOC Executive Director Will Jordan agreed that a knowledge gap, particularly with local government officials, was part of the problem.
Progressive measures won’t move forward “without the help of somebody sponsoring a bill and championing it,” Jordan said. “And they won’t do it if they don’t see what the fruit of it is. If this has at least one success then people always want to jump on the bandwagon of success.”
The recommendations in the report were written in conjunction with community groups, Purnell said, with a goal to keep momentum going in initiatives already underway.
One of the proposed solutions in the report seeks to remedy the lack of funding for the city of St. Louis’ Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The strategy calls for building a “broad coalition” to appeal to the St. Louis Board of Alderman about funding the trust fund and its potential impacts on homelessness, neighborhood instability and crime.
In an prior interview with the Post-Dispatch, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed discussed a resolution he proposed in terms of St. Louis’ housing issues. The resolution was passed by aldermen earlier this month and will set up a task force to explore the idea of a city-owned bank.
“If you look at the issues of race, inequality, public safety; all of these issues that we grapple with in the city of St. Louis, at the intersection of those issues is economics, right?” Reed said. “So to begin to address some of these things we’re going to have to look at systems in place and how they’re working and how they’re not working.”