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Vacant Buildings In St. Louis Are Now Eligible For Funding For Some Repairs

A vacant building at 4030 Evans Ave. owned by the city's Land Reutilization Authority.
File Photo | Marie Schwarz
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St. Louis Public Radio

The City of St. Louis will begin spending roughly $6 million per year for the next seven years on revitalizing vacant buildings.

At her weekly press briefing Wednesday, Mayor Lyda Krewson announced that Proposition Neighborhood Stabilization will go into effect after waiting on funding for nearly two years.

To pay for the project, city residents’ property taxes will increase annually by about 1 cent for every $100 in property value.

The increased tax revenue will let St. Louis sell $40 million worth of bonds, freeing up about $6 million every year for the next seven years.

According to Krewson’s office, there are 3,400 vacant buildings owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority. Prop NS will tackle the lots with smaller structures: single-family homes or multifamily homes with six units or fewer. Of the 3,400 properties, about 2,000 are eligible under those guidelines.

The goal of the project is for properties owned by the LRA to undergo enough repairs so they can be sold and developed by private entities. Single-family homes can receive up to $30,000 in repairs, while multifamily buildings can receive up to $50,000. After repairs, the buildings can be put up for auction.

“It’s stabilizing LRA-, Land Reutilization Authority, owned buildings so that then they can be attractive to be purchased by you or someone you know to finish the renovations,” Krewson said.

Making neighborhoods more appealing this way was an idea that came from city residents. Community organizers originally put Prop NS on city ballots in 2017, where it earned 58% of the vote.

That outcome did not meet the two-thirds threshold required to pass according to the city charter.

In fall 2017, the city filed a lawsuit in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, arguing that Proposition NS was controlled by the Missouri Constitution, not the city charter.

Under the state code, only four-sevenths, or 56%, of the vote was needed for the city to adopt the proposition.

In 2018, Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer ruled in favor of the city’s argument.

Originally, when the bill reached the Board of Aldermen, concerns arose about the proposition’s lack of specificity for which buildings would receive funds.

Those concerns dwindled when the city hired Sean Thomas, a longtime community organizer for Prop NS, to manage the project and ensure residents had a say moving forward.

“This was always part of the plan,” Thomas said. “This is what the residents who drafted the ordinance that got put before the voters back in 2017, that’s something they included in there. They wanted this to be a community-driven process.”

Residents can log onto the Land Reutilization Authority’s website to nominate vacant buildings for funding. The buildings must be owned by LRA to qualify.

Thomas said residents can expect a contractor to be onsite a few weeks after they nominate a building — a process that might go even faster for buildings already on the project’s radar. How long it will take to finish repairs will depend on the condition of the building.

In the city's press release, Krewson said the program will do more than repair buildings. “All at once, Prop NS helps us preserve these structures, attract new residents, fight illegal activity and blight, and reduce our maintenance costs. It’s a win-win for the community.”

St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann contributed information to this story.

Follow Becca on Twitter: @itsreallyflick

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