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St. Louis Prepares To Launch 'Dollar House' Program

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri will provide pro bono legal support to residents and neighborhood associations in Hyde Park, the West End, Old North St. Louis and Academy. The grant money will prevent residents and land owners from displacement.
File Photo | Marie Schwarz | St. Louis Public Radio
Vacant buildings owned by the Land Reutilization Authority in the 4000 block of Evans Avenue.

St. Louis homebuyers will soon be able to purchase some city-owned properties at a deep discount.

The going rate? One dollar.

Beginning this month, the Land Reutilization Authority will sell certain residential properties in the city’s land bank through the “Dollar House” pilot program. It’s part of an effort to reduce the number of vacant, city-owned properties and revitalize fading neighborhoods.

St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, D-21st Ward, sponsored a resolution to create the pilot program, which passed last September.

He said it will give people “an incentive to reinvest in St. Louis” and streamline the process of purchasing a city-owned home.

“The one thing I hear from people all the time is that the LRA is difficult to deal with,” said Collins-Muhammad, “and it is: it’s difficult and tedious to navigate the LRA process for numerous reasons.”

The LRA owns about 12,000 buildings and lots — nearly half the total number of vacant properties in the city.

The city-run land bank takes control of tax-delinquent properties and parcels that do not sell in public tax-foreclosure sales for at least one year.

Only a portion of the thousands of LRA-owned properties are eligible for the Dollar House program. Buildings must be single-family residences less than 1,500-square-feet that have been in the LRA inventory for more than five years.

Based on aninventory released by the city of St. Louis this month, there are 551 eligible properties.

Collins-Muhammad said he has been working closely with St. Louis Development Corporation Director Otis Williams and LRA Division Director Laura Costello to determine the best strategies for implementing the program.

One component of the planning process, he said, has been examining dollar housing programs in other U.S. cities, including Kansas City, Missouri, and Baltimore.

The goal, according to Collins-Muhammad, is to “lay a foundation” to keep more people in the city of St. Louis.

“We want them to know that as a city and as civic leaders, we’re on their side,” Collins-Muhammad said. “If there’s anything we can do to keep you in the city of St. Louis, then that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

Prospective buyers must submit an application along with a $25 non-refundable fee.

If the Board of Commissioners approves the application, buyers must attend a homeowners counseling class and use licensed contractors to make improvements to the property.

City officials will host a public meeting at Harris-Stowe State University Tuesday evening to provide more information on the Dollar House program and showcase available properties.

If you go:

Dollar House informational session

Where: Harris-Stowe State University, Henry Givens Building Main Auditorium, 3026 Laclede Ave.

When: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 29

Cost: free

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

Shahla Farzan was a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. Before becoming a journalist, Shahla spent six years studying native bees, eventually earning her PhD in ecology from the University of California-Davis. Her work for St. Louis Public Radio on drug overdoses in Missouri prisons won a 2020 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award.