Affordable Housing Task Force Takes Advocacy Efforts to St. Louis County
September 29, 2021
Barbara Harris, co-chair of the Racial Justice Committee (RJC), and Liz Sondhaus, co-chair of the RJC’s Affordable Housing Task Force, provided a PowerPoint presentation to the St. Louis County Equity Commission highlighting the challenges of finding affordable housing in the Central Corridor and offering our ideas to address this important community issue.
The Women’s Voices Affordable Housing Task Force aims to address the landscape of inequity in housing throughout St. Louis County. Women’s Voices is particularly focused on “communities of opportunity,” that is, those municipalities where residents have easy access to good schools, healthcare, parks and recreation, shopping opportunities, and transportation. Many of these communities are found in the central corridor of St. Louis County, where many of our members live.
It is clear that we have an enormous affordable housing gap in St. Louis County. Members of Women’s Voices believe that people, if they choose, should be able to live close to where they work. But workers that we have recently deemed “essential” to keeping our communities healthy and safe—those who work in our grocery stores, restaurants, government offices, and in our hospitals, nursing homes and schools—have been priced out of homes and apartments in the central corridor of St. Louis County where many of them work.
In her remarks, Barbara Harris highlighted the data showing challenges to finding affordable housing and provided suggestions summarizing what we can do to address this gap. Read her full remarks here.
Why are we Worrying about Webster Groves?
July 6, 2021
Last week all members of Women’s Voices had an opportunity to take a position on a question that will be on the ballot in Webster Groves on Aug. 3. (This is a benefit of membership: those who pay dues are entitled to help the organization take positions on various issues.) Members approved a position to OPPOSE Proposition 1.
The question in Webster involves a proposed adjustment to a zoning ordinance, which was approved by the Webster Groves city council but is challenged by a group of residents, who obtained enough signatures to get the question on the upcoming ballot.
A few of our members have questioned why we should take a position on a micro issue at the local level. Here’s why: Women’s Voices has 48 members in Webster Groves. Our new Affordable Housing task force has identified several “communities of opportunity” where members hope to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing, and Webster Groves is one of those communities.
Working on issues at the local/municipal level is a strategy of the new “Hold The Door Open” initiative. Zoning laws have historically made it difficult, if not impossible, for people of color or low-income individuals to live in certain zip codes. Therefore, our advocacy efforts will support the changes needed at that level. This is not glamorous or sexy work, but it is where change begins…in community, at the local level.
If you are interested in joining the Affordable Housing task force, which is a part of our Racial Justice Committee, email: email@example.com.
Women’s Voices Needs Your Voice to Advocate for Affordable Housing
June 2, 2021
We’ve learned a lot during the past year of the pandemic, and one of the lessons is the importance of a nice, safe, affordable place to call home. Unfortunately, too many St. Louisans lack this resource. There is a great need for affordable housing throughout the metro area.
In order to learn more about this issue and make our collective voices heard, members of the Racial Justice Committee have formed an Affordable Housing task force. Under the direction of co-chairs Liz Sondhaus and Barbara Finch, the task force will monitor proposed housing developments that ask for tax credits or other public subsidies. Task force members will also work in their own communities to monitor zoning regulations and decisions of planning commissions. The goal will be to “use our muscles,” not to pound a hammer or wield a saw, but to speak out at public meetings and write letters in order to help make change in the landscape of inequity that has kept so many people unable to afford housing.
If you are worried about the number of “McMansions” going up in your community, you should join this task force. If your community keeps giving tax breaks to developers without demanding something in return, you should join this task force. If your friends and neighbors say “Not In My Back Yard,” you should join this task force. If you want your children and grandchildren to interact with kids who don’t “look like them,” you should join this task force.
To join, or for more information, email: housingjustice@
Let’s work together to make sure everyone can go home.
Two New Task Forces For Racial Justice Committee
Do you know how many units of housing in your community are designated as “affordable”? Do you know how much multi-family housing is allowed in your town? Do your zoning laws mandate primarily large lots and single-family detached homes?
These issues and others will be studied by members of the new Women’s Voices affordable housing task force, which will work under the direction of the Racial Justice Committee. The new initiative, called “Hold the Door Open,” is designed to raise awareness about housing issues in the communities where Women’s Voices members live. A number of opportunities for advocacy are expected to arise as this new effort gets underway.
Also new under the Racial Justice umbrella next year will be a task force focusing on criminal justice reform. If you are interested in learning about how poverty has become criminalized, the difficulties involved in police reform, systems that are in place designed to penalize poor people, and local and state efforts to enact legislation to reform those systems, we encourage you to join this task force.
If you are interested in the broad category of racial justice, or either of the new task forces, email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information will be coming this summer.
Where are People Supposed to Live?
Barbara Finch, in her Nov. 25 commentary in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, states that “adequate housing that is accessible and affordable for every citizen is a prerequisite for a healthy community.” Read more here.
HUD Weakens Fair Housing Protections
November 2, 2020
The Racial Justice Committee focuses on affordable housing as a key plank in their strategic plan. We want to highlight a recent very damaging actino by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A new rule is being finalized that will destroy 45-year-old civil rights protection for the most vulnerable individuals. The rule will make it more difficult to combat systemic racism and discriminatory practices by housing providers, financia institutions and insurance companies. Learn more from the National Fair Housing Alliance and their partners.
Lawsuit settled over mice-infested apartments in St. Louis public housing
July 23, 2019
The Post Dispatch reports: “The Missouri attorney general’s office has dropped its lawsuit against the St. Louis Housing Authority and a housing management company after a year of clean-up at the Clinton-Peabody Housing Complex south of downtown St. Louis.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office said Monday the management company, McCormack Baron Management Inc., had spent more than $300,000 to clean up mold, mice and bug infestations since the attorney general’s office sued the company and the housing authority last August.”
Women’s Voices members attended meetings and advocated on behalf of the Clinton-Peabody tenants. Read the full article here.
Traumatized Residents Describe Living Conditions at Housing Complex
March 22, 2018
Five members of Women’s Voices joined dozens of others who crammed into the crowded board room when members of the Board of Commissioners of the St. Louis Housing Authority met on March 22. The topic of discussion: an intractable infestation of mice, which has plagued the residents of the Clinton-Peabody housing complex for more than a year.
Residents took to the microphone to describe intolerable living conditions. Mice, bedbugs and roaches force residents to keep their lights on all the time; foul odors force them to open their windows even in the winter. “Our living conditions are embarrassing and dangerous and traumatizing. I hate living at Clinton-Peabody,” one woman said, as she burst into tears. Another resident challenged board members to “spend one night in an apartment at the complex.”
While most board members listened impassively to the residents concerns, one commissioner, Regina Stewart, was moved by their heartfelt pleas for help. “I will not spend the night in a mice-infested apartment, but I do promise you that we will come up with a plan to help you,” she said, to a standing ovation. “I hear your pain, and we must do something
Suing for workplace, housing discrimination in Missouri tougher under new law
Gov. Eric Greitens approved a measure that will require people to explicitly prove their race, sex or other protected status actually motivated their boss or colleague to mistreat them to win an employment discrimination case….Under the new law, which goes into effect Aug. 28, such an employee would need to meet a higher standard: The worker would have to show that race explicitly “motivated” mistreatment through, for example, written documentation of racist comments. Read more here.
Facts About the New Workplace, Housing Discrimination Bill
- Harder to sue your employer when you are discriminated against
- Could put federal housing funding at risk
- MO NAACP called this type of legislation “Jim Crow,” a regression to a time before civil rights legislation
- Removes some whistleblower protections making us all less safe.
- Removes ability to sue a specific employee, creating a devastating result for survivors of sexual harassment and potential future victims.
Missouri would be the first state to roll back civil rights protections – rights in employment and housing that were won through decades of struggle.