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

a group of people posing for a photo in front of a house

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.” 

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