Friday, September 26, 2008

The Boom Downtown

Downtown St. Louis residentsLoft style has become mainstream in America. Black Granite, high ceilings, slab cabinets, modern decor. Tre Chic. Many loft buyers take this modern style and make their loft space into an attempt at self-expression. Stylish artwork, photos, great designs and modern furniture.

A few years down the road, a different style can evolve. Cool ultra modern stuff begins to share the space with more pastels. Bright colored objects stashed around the floors. Mobiles. Rubber duckies in the spa-like master baths. They become "baby-fied".

With our traditional St. Louis values, some people decide to move away. But what if they don't? Is it acceptable to have children in downtown St. Louis?

Fair housing laws were established in 1968 to protect the rights of people to live where they want regardless of who they were. Race, Color, National Origin, Religion, Sex, Familial Status, or handicap are the "protected classes" in the US.

Recently I heard of a couple that was being harassed by neighbors due to their child crying at night. The condo president got involved, trying to be helpful and resolve the matter. What actually resulted was clearly discriminatory.

They decided to sell their loft because they didn't feel welcome in their building.

One thing about downtown St. Louis, we have our very own office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Discussing this situation with the investigators, they advised that any attempt to control the behavior or living conditions of an individual or couple based on the fact that they have a child is discriminatory and violates the rights of a protected class of people (familial status). Regarding this situation, they told me that the intent of the person making discriminatory actions was less important than the perceptions of the persons being discriminated against.

In light of this situation, it might not be a bad idea for several of the downtown loft condo boards to hold a joint informational meeting on this topic. The folks at the HUD office seemed very open to meeting to talk about Fair Housing matters and to educate those who may be involved. While downtown residents may establish expectations about fellow residents, they should always remember that the neighborhood is open to everyone and the last thing a condo association needs is for its board members to waste time and money dealing with complaints from HUD.

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