Welcome to the Village: An Analysis of How St. Louis County Occupancy Permit Schemes Perpetuate Segregation and Violate the Constitution
ABA Journal of Affordable Housing, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2015
46 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2018
Date Written: January 15, 2015
In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014 and the events that followed in Ferguson, national attention turned to the several ways St. Louis County’s balkanized municipal governments create policies and conditions that target poor residents and perpetuate racial segregation in the region. One such set of municipal policies involves occupancy permits: many municipalities in St. Louis County require both tenants and owners of residential properties to obtain new occupancy permits upon each change in the individuals occupying the residence. Even as the State of Missouri takes action to address some of the abuses by limiting the revenue that cities can earn from traffic offenses, these housing offenses remain ripe for abuse, and in fact, some cities may even increase enforcement of non-traffic offenses to cover lost revenue.
While these occupancy ordinances were purportedly enacted to address race-neutral policy goals based on health and safety, their implementation has a racially exclusionary effect, even if applied uniformly to all housing in a municipality. Because of the proliferation of small municipalities in St. Louis County and the absence of a regional policy, occupancy permits create barriers to entry into communities and have the potential to exclude people not just from individual properties, but from entire cities or villages.
Keywords: occupancy permit, housing, local regulation, fair housing, municipalities, Ferguson
JEL Classification: H79, I18, I39, K11, K42, K49, R38, R58
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation