by Michael R. Allen
In January, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis posted this video of a bus tour of affordable housing developed by the St. Louis Equity Fund (SLEFI). SLEFI President John Wuest led a tour that included south city, the Loop, Hillsdale, north St. Louis and downtown. The majority of the projects included are rehabilitation of historic buildings that leveraged state and federal low income housing tax credits with state historic rehabilitation tax credits.
At one point during the tour, Wuest said that after several projects in one area there can start to be serious impact. That’s a realistic approach that differs from the large-scale urban renewal projects that have failed again and again. Yet the project-by-project effort to create a community impact is difficult to finance, especially if the end product is affordable housing. The recession has made the work even harder, but changes to the tax credit programs that make this work possible would be disastrous.