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St. Louis program offers vacant single-family homes for $1

March 2, 2019

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A new St. Louis program that allows people to purchase vacant homes for $1 could help provide adequate housing in the area and put abandoned property back on the city’s tax rolls, according to city officials.

The city recently launched the Dollar House pilot program to match some of the Land Reutilization Authority’s vacant housing with people who are looking to become homeowners, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported . The city’s land bank set aside 522 vacant houses for the program, but none of the structures are move-in ready.

The buildings are single-family residential structures, less than 1,500 square feet and located in neighborhoods that have seen significant divestment in recent years.

Applicants must prove they have the financial means to renovate the property, and they’re given 18 months to bring the structure’s interior to comply with city code.

New homeowners are expected to live in the property for at least three years. Failure to meet all of the program’s obligations will result in the property being returned to the land bank.

St. Louis urban homesteading efforts date back to the early 1970s, but many of the city’s programs weren’t effective because they failed to address basic challenges facing the poor, including an inability to get loans to finance repairs.

“The dollar sale catches a lot of people’s attention but we’re not going to move a lot of real estate that way until we deal with some of these underlying financial issues,” said Vincent Schoemehl, a former mayor who oversaw a dollar-house program from 1981 to 1993. “The fundamental challenge here is to re-establish a free functioning market in some of the neighborhoods in the city, and that takes a lot of different pieces.”

The $1 price tag associated with the title of the program can also be a bit misleading. It doesn’t account for the $25 application fee, $83 in processing and recording fees, $70 homeowners’ counseling class and $250 title insurance.

But many residents, including 24-year-old Margaret Misher, are still expressing interest in the program. Misher said she appreciates the efforts to bring housing opportunities to the city’s black community.

“Being younger, I remember we could go outside and play in the front (yard) and now it’s like you don’t even want to play in the backyard anymore,” Misher said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com