The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide more than $26 million to St. Louis County for residential and commercial development.
It’s the second time in recent months HUD made a high-profile resources-related announcement in the St. Louis area.
At a newss conference in Clayton on Wednesday morning, HUD Secretary Julian Castro said most of the money would go toward two programs. Most of the county’s money — $24 million — would come from the Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program. That money could go to:
- Development along major mass transit lines
- Mixed-use commercial, retail and multi-family rental development
- Business development loans
- Public infrastructure and facility projects
About $2.4 million was awarded through the Declared Disaster Recovery Funds. That can go to areas of the county that were affected by a 2013 tornado. Another $100,000 will go to "technical assistance" to help administer the funds.
“There are a lot of folks in this county that are in need. And we are committed to working with you to help ensure that they have a chance to succeed,” Castro said. “Today’s announcement reflects a simple truth. That we believe in this area. We believe in you and your efforts — and we want to be a strong partner to help you achieve greater prosperity for everyone here.”
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said his administration “will be making a determination on where the money will be allocated within our community.” He indicated that most of the money could go to economically disadvantaged parts of north St. Louis County.
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” Stenger said. “And I can’t say enough about the Promise Zone designation as well. And when you couple the Promise Zone designation and a program we’re talking about today … it just makes an enormous impact on our community almost immeasurably.”
Where the zone ends
The “Promise Zone” Stenger was referring to is a HUD program that gives an ares priority in getting federal funds. Earlier this year, Castro came to Wellston to announce a Promise Zone encompassing parts of north St. Louis and north St. Louis County.
But since Castro’s announcement, several aldermen have questioned the configuration of St. Louis’ Promise Zone. Alderman Cara Spencer asked why it didn’t include the 20th Ward in south St. Louis, which she said “has a tremendous amount of disinvestment and high poverty levels.”
Castro said he didn’t have any specific insight on why the Promise Zone didn’t extend to Spencer’s 20th Ward. (An official with the St. Louis Economic Partnership cited population limits and the need for a Promise Zone to be contiguous.) But Castro did say that he’s used to hearing questions about why one part of a region wasn’t included in a Promise Zone.
“I was mayor of San Antonio when we were part of the first round of Promise Zones. And both as mayor and now as HUD secretary, I can tell you that … we always get that question about ‘well, why this part of the community and not another part of the community?’” Castro said. “Because the fact is, whether it’s St. Louis or it’s San Antonio or whether it’s Los Angeles, you have a lot of places that are distressed in urban core neighborhoods that need attention and investment. And that’s why the president has been very clear that we all need to do more to pay attention to what’s happening in these areas.”
Castro noted another round of Promise Zones is coming, saying, “If there are other communities in this area, I would encourage them to be a part of that third round application process for Promise Zones — as well as communities across the United States that were not part of the first or second round.”