In observance of Memorial Day, all County Housing offices will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024. We will resume our regular business hours on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

For Public Housing maintenance emergencies, please call (314) 429-3811.

For HCV resident emergencies, please get in touch with your landlord.

Important Alert: Beware of Online Scams

Our partners with Mountains and Plains Network (MAP) have been alerted to a concerning trend involving online scams targeting individuals seeking access to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) waitlist. It has come to our attention that an unauthorized entity is falsely presenting itself online, offering a shortcut to the HCV waitlist. This scam has evolved, with scammers also impersonating landlords via fake emails and unlawfully soliciting deposits from unsuspecting individuals under the guise of HCV approval. 

Please be aware that all legitimate access to the HCV waitlist is always processed through official Public Housing Agency (PHA) channels. Importantly, at no point does the process require a financial deposit to secure a place on the Section 8 waitlist.

1. Official Communication: All official communications regarding HCV waitlist placement will come directly from the Housing Authority of St. Louis County or County Housing. Please be sure to verify any suspicious emails or offers.

2. Legitimate PHA Contacts: If you need to verify the legitimacy of any contact claiming to represent the PHA check out the official list of PHA contacts at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha/contacts.

3. No Fees for Waitlist Access: There are no fees associated with applying for or being placed on the HCV waitlist. Any request for money in exchange for waitlist placement or expedited service is a scam.

If you think you have been targeted by a scam please report your experience to us and local law enforcement. This information can be invaluable in preventing further victimization. You may also file a complaint with the HUD Office of Inspector General via https://www.hudoig.gov/.

Inside County Housing’s evolving approach to challenges like rising rents

With local rental rates rising at historic levels, finding decent, safe, affordable housing can be difficult—especially for seniors, for people with disabilities, and for families who earn low or moderate incomes. One of the organizations on the front lines addressing this ongoing challenge is County Housing, the official government housing authority in St. Louis County.

“The need for a home is universal, and County Housing works to ensure people with low and moderate incomes have that need met,” says Executive Director and CEO Shannon Koenig.

On the consumer side, County Housing provides leads on affordable rental homes or apartments through relationships they’ve developed or through trusted websites. “Once people have found a place to live, County Housing makes sure it meets national safety and quality standards,” Koenig says. “If something goes wrong, we make sure it gets fixed—and if something goes really wrong, we reissue the housing voucher so the family can try again to find a better place.”

County Housing also communicates continually with local landlords, both those who accept housing vouchers and those who are prospective program participants. An important part of its role is leveraging its relationships with landlords to advocate on behalf of residents, always striving to weave together supportive solutions for individuals who might be going through a vulnerable time while also giving them agency in their housing options.

County Housing has recently begun an evolution to become even more proactive about meeting the needs of local individuals and communities. It’s in the process of improving its operations and aspiring to an elevated customer service experience through efforts such as a soon-to-be-released new website.

It has other new initiatives in motion too, and it’s working to address the negative perceptions that people sometimes encounter when they approach a landlord with a housing voucher.

County Housing’s evolution is taking place during a time when it has to cover higher rents with the same amount of funding from the federal government—and it continues to face a backlog on its waiting list. “In 2020, we had 6,000 people come on to our waitlist,” Koenig says. “We are still working on that list.” There are also years-long waitlists for each of the public housing developments County Housing manages.

“Our waitlists speak to the tremendous demand for decent, safe, and affordable housing,” Koenig says. “It’s difficult to get on a list, and then you’re never sure how long you’ll wait.”

In response, County Housing is updating its systems to keep the local community better informed about waitlist openings. To give people more options, it has also started attaching its vouchers to existing and new developments like Wellington Family Homes, a project that’s voluntarily converting former public housing to affordable housing in Wellston, and University Crossing, a new Low-Income Housing Tax Credit project at Interstate 70 and Hanley.

County Housing is constrained in its ability to change its payment standards—it’s limited by federally set fair market rents that apply to an entire metro area—so it can’t simply raise the amount it pays to meet rising rental prices. It adopted the highest payment standards possible during COVID (120% of fair market rents), and its staff is looking forward to changes on the federal side, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development increasing the amount of fair market rents and using rental amounts based on smaller areas (such as a zip code).

Because housing voucher programs only have enough money to assist 1 in 4 people who qualify based on their income, Koenig says, County Housing advocates for increased funding from the federal government and local sources. And because chronic underfunding of public housing has not kept pace with the need for updating and investment, County Housing is becoming more active in real estate development, both redeveloping units it already owns using tools like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program and partnering with other organizations to build new affordable housing.

County Housing’s goal is for its efforts to be a stepping stone for residents toward bigger and better things, including a path to homeownership. “Living in public housing is not a long-term solution for families,” Koenig says. “We’re reinforcing the cornerstone of the community’s foundation at a time when people need it most. The things we do actually change people’s lives.”

An important tool to increase rental housing choice ramps up in St. Louis County

The cost of rental housing in the St. Louis region is rising faster than almost anywhere else in the U.S., with a 17-percent jump in median rents from 2023 to 2024.

The rising prices coincide with a decrease in the number of new units available in the local area, adding to the pressure on renters looking for housing that fits their budget.

For low-income renters who qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher program, federal payment standards limit the maximum monthly assistance a household can receive to 110 percent of what HUD determines to be the fair market rent in the area. As rents rise, the payment standards may not keep pace with local prices.

But local officials at County Housing are optimistic that a new HUD mandate will help the vouchers they issue stay competitive. In October, HUD announced that St. Louis County was one of 41 metropolitan areas that will begin to use Small Area Fair Market Rents to determine the amount of assistance households participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program receive.

This means that starting Jan. 1, 2025, payment standards for St. Louis County’s largest income-based voucher program will be calculated by ZIP code. Under this new approach, County Housing will zoom in on 53 small areas to determine the maximum amount it will pay toward a household’s rent and utilities based on typical costs in each one.

If a rental unit is in a higher-cost area, the Housing Choice Voucher amount will go up. Likewise, payment standards in low-cost areas will most likely be reduced.

Households eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher program contribute no more than 40 percent of their adjusted monthly income to rent and utilities—something that will not change when the mandate takes effect.

HUD’s goal with this mandate is for families and individuals to be able to move to neighborhoods that weren’t accessible before, places where they are more likely to find high-performing schools, low levels of poverty, and amenities such as grocery stores. There are already 24 metropolitan areas where the mandate is in place, including the City of St. Louis.

Just as they do now, County Housing’s landlord liaisons can help households connect to available rental housing when the mandate goes into effect, explained Emily Smith, County Housing’s director of program compliance and training. But it’s still up to each individual to apply for the unit, pass whatever background checks are needed, abide by the terms of the lease, and so on.

Using Small Area Fair Market Rents as a tool to increase the availability of rental options and the efficiency of administration in the Housing Choice Voucher program is not totally new within St. Louis County.

County Housing recently participated in a research project about household mobility, implementing the approach in three ZIP codes: 63119, 63122, and 63144. When the study ended, County Housing chose to continue to offer higher payment standards in those areas, where rent tends to be more expensive.

“The mandated Small Area Fair Market Rents are going to help us compete in the real world,” said Nicole Alexander, who directs the Housing Choice Voucher program for St. Louis County and is responsible for making sure the organization doesn’t overspend. “We have to draw from a fixed pot of money, but it will be interesting to see what happens, because all our residents will not necessarily want to move to those more expensive neighborhoods.”

Smith agrees that some residents may choose to stay in neighborhoods they are already familiar with. Another unpredictable factor is how many landlords will choose to accept Housing Choice Vouchers once they are competitive in more neighborhoods.

“It can be difficult, because there’s a stigma around the voucher program,” Smith said. “Teaching landlords about the benefits will be huge in the coming year.”

Alexander added that a common misconception among landlords is that their property is more likely to be poorly maintained or damaged by renters with vouchers. “In fact, most people follow all the guidelines,” she said.

In addition, Alexander continued, “Whenever you’re renting to a voucher holder, County Housing is here as a mutual party, and we can provide support over and above what a fair market renter would receive.”


To learn more about how County Housing will communicate this expanded opportunity to residents and landlords, please contact Nicole Alexander at nicolea@countyhousing.org.

HUD Officials’ Visit Highlights a Win for Public Housing Residents in Wellston

The $44 million Wellington Family Homes LP in Wellston received a high-profile visit from U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials this fall, six months after the groundbreaking ceremony on the 186-unit public housing redevelopment project.

The visit spotlighted the years-long effort by the Housing Authority of St. Louis County, the City of Wellston, and many other partners to stave off demolition and instead rehab a key segment of Wellston’s residences. The end result, due to be completed in 2025 by Knight Development, will be 186 extensively renovated affordable housing units on 65 parcels of land.

“This is a seven-year project from problem-solving to completion,” said Shannon Koenig, Executive Director and CEO of the Housing Authority of St. Louis County. “It was very hard-fought, and I feel like it’s just the beginning for Wellston.”

“The remodels are tremendous quality. They enhance the existing housing stock but also the experience of living in Wellston.”

Mayor Nathaniel Griffin

Mayor Nathaniel Griffin agrees that the project is a turning point for the community of 2,500 residents in North St. Louis County. “The remodels are tremendous quality,” he said. “They enhance the existing housing stock but also the experience of living in Wellston.”

HUD officials visiting Wellston in early October included Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Monocchio, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Felicia Gaither of HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing, and Director Craig Dobson of the Office of Public Housing for HUD Region 7.

Monocchio has been traveling the country to meet with public housing authorities, residents, mayors, affordable housing developers, and cross-sector partners—which in Wellston included Mayor Nathaniel Griffin for informal conversations and even shooting hoops with the mayor and his family in the recreation complex where the city’s offices are located. Griffin said those interactions reinforced to the HUD officials that their small community values things such as recreation that bind neighborhood relationships.

Before joining HUD in May, Monocchio ran the public housing authority in Cook County in the Chicago area, and he’s very familiar with innovative approaches to address housing issues. “He was very impressed with the Wellington Family Homes project,” Koenig says. Gaither, who was part of the project’s launch in 2019, was also very satisfied with where it is headed, Koenig added.

The project is made possible through HUD’s Voluntary Conversion Program, which seeks to increase affordable housing opportunities through private investment. When the upgraded homes reopen in 2025, residents will include low- to moderate-income families, with a primary focus on individuals with children and formerly homeless individuals and families.

Back in 2019, HUD had slated 201 units of public housing in Wellston for demolition—but through the intervention of advocates at the local and national level, including former Rep. Lacy Clay and County Executive Sam Page, the department offered them a 120-day window to come up with a redevelopment plan.

Koenig, who worked for County Executive Page in 2019 and then in the St. Louis County Department of Human Services in 2020, helped negotiate a compromise, put out an RFP, and select a developer. She transitioned into her current role at the Housing Authority in 2021 and has been working on the Wellston project ever since—including closing the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) deal in 2023—through challenges such as the COVID pandemic and recent rising prices due to inflation.

“During the HUD officials’ visit, there was a lot of happiness and optimism about what we had been able to do and the fact that this project is a reality,” Koenig said. “Not a lot of folks believed this was going to happen.”

Griffin heard the skepticism too, and he’s proud of the long-term partnerships that forged this project. “I want people to understand we can build anything if we come together,” he said.

Koenig credits St. Louis County government, Wellston officials, various developers, local nonprofits, and community stakeholders with pulling the project back together time and time again each time it hit a roadblock. The community has also received several million dollars of investment in complementary development, economic, and blight removal activities to support the long-term success of this revitalization effort.

“HUD is a great partner, and we need their support to be able to do this kind of transformative work,” Koenig said.  “I’m so pleased that we had the opportunity to showcase how all the effort has paid off in Wellston.”