The Jeff Vander Lou (JVL) neighborhood of St. Louis, located less than 2 miles from downtown, was once a healthy and vibrant community. However, the neighborhood fell into decline and disrepair after World War II, as businesses closed and low-income renters vastly outnumbered homeowners. By 2008, JVL was suffering from poverty and unemployment rates nearly triple the national average, as well as a vacancy rate that totaled nearly 9 percent of all the city’s vacant lots.
In 2008, Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis (HFH STL) launched a revitalization effort for the JVL neighborhood that included the development of 65 homes for neighborhood families. Over the next three years, three Community Development Entities, McCormack Baron, USBCDE, and Central Bank of Kansas City, in three separate transactions, provided a total of $14.5 million in NMTC financing, which was used in conjunction with private donations, grants, and other sources of capital to make the project possible.
This development, completed in 2011, is breathing new life into the JVL neighborhood, creating 71 construction jobs and generating $6.3 million in direct employee wages and income. The neighborhood’s poverty and unemployment rates have decreased. Crime dropped by more than half in 2011 and is on track for a 66% decrease in 2012. The 65 new homes nearly tripled the number of owner-occupied buildings in JVL, and the influx of working families brought more than 60 employed persons to a community with less than 50% labor force participation and only 34% of working-age individuals employed. A new bank and coffee shop opened up nearby to serve the new homeowners, and a struggling grocery store and retail center have stabilized.
The tax impact generated by the JVL project resulted in at least $130,000 in new local, county, state, and federal tax revenue. All 65 homes were built to Energy Star and LEED certification standards, providing each homeowner with $435 per year in energy cost savings. Habitat homeowners also accumulate more than $2 million in wealth from their home equity over the next 20 years.