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St. Louisans facing tax foreclosure would see relief via new fund

Vacant buildings owned by the Land Reutilization Authority in the 4000 block of Evans Avenue. February 2017.
File photo / Marie Schwarz
St. Louis Public Radio
Homes lost to tax foreclosure sometimes stay vacant for years, like these Land Utilization Authority homes photographed in 2017.

Each year, approximately 50 St. Louis families lose their homes because they didn’t, or couldn’t, pay the real estate taxes. Those tax foreclosures come down to an average of just $3,500 — but they have a much bigger impact on both local families and the homes they are forced to abandon.

“When a family does lose their home to foreclosure, it impacts the property value of the homes that are around it,” said Abdul Abdullah, executive director of Park Central Development. “It also adds to the vacancy that is so prevalent within the St. Louis area. When a home is vacant, it becomes what I like to call a petri dish for negative impacts on community development and takes away from the safety and security in a neighborhood.”

Now a new coalition hopes to help families get right with the tax collector, sparing them from foreclosure. The St. Louis Real Estate Tax Assistance Fund has been designed to intervene before properties go up for a tax sale. Its founders hope to help up to 50 families in the city this spring.

The fund will be administered by Park Central Development, the community development corporation working in the Central West End and the Grove, as well as neighborhoods north of Delmar. Its partners include the Collector of Revenue’s office, the nonprofit Prosperity Connection, and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. The St. Louis Community Credit Union contributed an initial $5,000 seed money.

Abdul Abdullah, executive director of Park Central Development
Via Abdul Abdullah
Abdul Abdullah, executive director of Park Central Development

Abdullah said the office of Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daly will play a key role in identifying families in need before it’s too late. The office will also screen out investors or those with multiple properties on the tax rolls.

“They've agreed to say, ‘Hey, when we have people that come in here, we're going to first of all refer them to you all to get the proper resource,’” he said. “And then when we get to the point where a home is not salvageable, and there is a foreclosure, and we do know that there's going to be a possible eviction, we’re working and trying to partner also with the collector's office, and even the sheriff's department to say, ‘Hey, where are these evictions taking place at,’ so we can truly intervene with people who are going to lose their home.”

Listen to Abdul Abdullah on St. Louis on the Air

Abdullah said the coalition is the result of two different efforts that joined forces before they launched. One came out of a conversation Abdullah had with 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard, who was upset about a constituent being forced out of their home. He later learned of a second, parallel effort getting started at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

“What we decided to do was not take what I call the St. Louis approach of being parochial and [instead] say, ‘Hey, how do we make a bigger pie where we can get more dollars to help more people?’” he recalled. “And that's exactly what we did.”

The coalition hopes to begin assisting families by the spring of 2022. For more information, or to donate, see the fund’s website.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
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