Home News Abandoned properties are piling up in St. Louis County. Lawmaker says it’s time for a land bank.

Abandoned properties are piling up in St. Louis County. Lawmaker says it’s time for a land bank.

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north street. LOUIS COUNTY — By the time a California woman claims ownership of her drive-by vacant Ventura home, Amy Michael has already spent nearly $50,000 on warped floors, broken windows, vandalism and years of vandalism. I was repairing copper wiring that was destroyed by neglect.

Since 2015, Michael has been working with family and friends to fix and flip homes. But it was the first time he had purchased a repair shop from an inventory of thousands of tax delinquent properties in St. Louis County.

“You don’t know until you buy it if it’s going to be a problem,” said Michael.

Pictured Thursday, October 13, 2022, Amy Michael needed an attorney to help her with a problem in purchasing a tax delinquent property on Ventura Road in unincorporated North St. Louis County. According to one state legislator, the county’s existing acquisition process lacks the efficiency to get them back on the market smoothly. Photo by Christian Gooden, [email protected]

Christian Gooden

I’m not talking about the trash you found buried in your backyard or the mold you found inside. Rather, it’s the title issue that prevents banks from lending against real estate, forcing a limited pool of courageous investors like Michael to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers.

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“Without clear ownership, many of the benefits of owning a home are lost,” said the rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale. “Some people find out after they start working that they don’t actually own a home.”

Congressman Kevin Windham

Rep. Kevin Windham Jr. of D Hillsdale at a press conference held at Vinita Park City Hall on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

Colter Peterson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Windham hopes the legislation he plans to introduce in the next session will encourage the absorption and reuse of St. Louis County Increase in abandoned properties It’s putting pressure on the neighborhood. his bill The county could establish a land bank similar to the City of St. Louis’s Land Reuse Authority, and in 1971 state law empowered it to manage abandoned property left by suburban settlers.

If Wyndham’s bill is passed and the county approves its own land bank ordinance, thousands of abandoned lands could open up new avenues for clean ownership and a fresh start.

Nearly 5,500 properties in northern St. Louis County are in the process of the tax foreclosure process. Late taxes often mark a property as vacant, which can attract crime, depress the value of adjacent properties, and create a feedback loop that destabilizes the entire community.

Unlike the city St. Louis County is ill-prepared to deal with the problems of vacancies and urban collapse.

“In St. Louis County, where we are talking, these numbers are going unacceptable,” said Dale Sweet. Missouri tax sales attorney and expert.

At the end of last year, there were 1,741 properties the county tried to auction with taxpayers’ money on at least three occasions. Slightly lower than 2015. of 410 properties owned by the county trustee’s office However, the number of properties offered in the first or second round of St. Louis County tax sales jumped significantly from about 2,000 in 2015. In August 2015, the number exceeded 3,000.

“Real Opportunity”

It’s not yet at the level you see in St. Louis, but — If the LRA owns approximately 10,000 propertiesContinued Population Decline in North County Also, the increase in tax delinquent properties shows that the city’s vacancy problem is shifting to the suburbs.

The 2013 county strategic plan called for the establishment of a land bank, but there has been little movement or debate on the issue, and in recent years, A group focused on vacancy issues When City emphasis on the issueThe new push from Wyndham has already gained support from St. Louis County executive Sam Page.

“Dr. Page met with Rep. Wyndham to discuss the Land Bank, which would be a real way to put property back into productive use, increase property values, and support neighborhood development and redevelopment throughout St. Louis County. We see this as an opportunity to do so,” said Page spokesman Doug Moore. in a statement.

St. Louis County Council Chairperson Rita Hurd Days said the North County area includes much of the county’s vacant lot, “an idea worth considering” and “could work very well for us.” But she said many local governments already have processes in place to take ownership of abandoned properties to resell or reclaim.

Days also sponsored another county economic development agency, the St. Louis County Land Reclamation for Redevelopment Authority, Owned dozens of properties in Wellston and struggled to keep them.

“We don’t want to be bad landlords either, but that was the case with Wellston,” Days said. “I have to clean up my house first.”

Wyndham has worked with a coalition of groups Including Beyond Housing, which focuses on the Normandy region. Residential partnership focused on LeMay. and the Spanish Lake Community Development Corporation. The National Realtors of St. Louis last month called for a bill to establish a county land bank. We are working with Wyndham on the bill.

To create a revenue stream for land banks to maintain and sell properties, Wyndham’s legislation adds a $1 surcharge to real estate document recording fees that help fund land banks in the state .

Windham said he hoped the bill would be supported, referring to the incoming Speaker of the House Dean ProcherR-Des Peres is from the county, Worked as a city judge in Pine Loan, exposed him to North County matters. Several changes were also made to the St. Louis Land Banking Act to clarify property ownership and make it easier to take ownership of vacant properties. Windham said it helped educate some lawmakers about the tax delinquency process and land bank issues.

“I think there’s some momentum,” Windham said.

Other counties

Wyndham’s bill would allow all counties in Missouri to opt into the process of clearing ownership of tax delinquent property and would allow every municipality in the state to establish a land bank.

Currently, only St. Louis and Kansas City have land bank laws. St. Louis County, with one million residents and the same problems as the big cities, must follow the process that rural counties do to get abandoned property back on the tax return. The county usually has him wait three years for taxes to come due, after which he has to put the property up for sale at a special tax auction in August for another three years.Only then can they be placed A list of properties that buyers can bid on at any time.

That timeline, coupled with the ownership liquidation work that the buyer must hire an attorney to carry out, means the property could take six to seven years before the rehabilitator can put it back on the tax return. That means it’s sexually charged, said Sweet, an attorney who handles such properties.

Another hurdle is that the county must sell the property for the amount of unpaid taxes and fees. This could well exceed the value of the property after many years. Land banks can offer properties for sale at low prices that are likely to attract buyers. And what it doesn’t sell is at least an agency that drives into real estate and cuts grass.

All of the city’s LRA issues have been successful in keeping many properties in and safe, Sweet said. At least there is an agency where residents can lodge complaints. But the St. Louis County property has been abandoned and hasn’t attracted buyers at tax auctions.

“The (St. Louis) LRA is very good at maintaining assets with limited resources,” said Sweet. “The county does a pretty good job of providing public services and public works to unincorporated areas, but it is ill-equipped to handle the growing problem of delinquency, deterioration and abandonment.”

Rehabilitator Michael was able to take ownership of the house she purchased north of Jennings, but only because no other lien holders appeared in court. The house is now for sale, but it took her several months due to court delays. Meanwhile, interest rates have risen, making it harder for prospective buyers to finance their purchases.

She believes the county’s new tax sale process, which pre-settles property, will attract more people like her who are willing to repair abandoned properties.

“It would be silly not to,” said Michael. “I don’t understand why we have to go through this. It’s common sense. It shows how bad governments are at governing. This is not rocket science.”

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