May 18, 2016
SLACO asks St Louis Ways and Means Committee for additional funding in City's 2017 budget for demolition.
Vacancy Approaches Seen as Critical to the Success of Neighborhoods
As part of SLACO's new strategic plan developed in 2014, the SLACO Board decided to select an advocacy issue that impacted neighborhoods citywide. The growing problem of vacant property was selected and a Vacancy Committee was formed.
The committee brought together a diverse group of about 30 individuals from throughout the city, including neighborhood residents with first-hand experience with vacant properties, representatives from non-profits and subject-matter experts.
The committee first met in January 2016 and subcommittees were formed to tackle various aspects of the issue:
Best Practices - Identifies promising practices and tested approaches in other communities in St. Louis and across the country
Education/Outreach – Disseminates information and resources developed by the other subcommittees
LRA - Educates neighborhoods about how they can obtain LRA property and advocates for changes and improvements to the process
Legal Tools - Studies city ordinances and state statutes to determine how they can be used to address nuisance properties and prevent vacancies.
The ad hoc Short-Term Budget subcommittee secured an additional $188,000 in the city budget for vacant building maintenance in the 2017 budget.
The committee plans to host a Vacancy Conference on February 24, 2017 to bring together stakeholders to develop a detailed action plan for moving forward.
In addition, the Vacancy Committee has been working with city leaders to see where collaboration might occur because the best way to tackle the vacancy issue is to work to ensure that all stakeholders are brought together.
The scourge of vacancy in St. Louis developed over many years for many reasons and needs a variety of approaches and time to address it.
Vacant properties pose many problems, including:
- Attracting crime causing an increase in the number of police and fire calls
- Decreasing property values and reducing the city’s tax base
- Increasing insurance costs
- Loss of population
- Taking a human toll
Vacancy by the Numbers
What are Vacant Properties?
Vacant properties are residential, commercial, or industrial abandoned buildings and unused lots. Fundamentally, vacant properties are costly and wasteful. These properties strain both local government resources and neighborhoods. The harm extends beyond St. Louis boundaries.
Vacant Properties in St. Louis
Because St. Louis is a shrinking city, it has struggled for decades with vacant properties. The Shrinking Cities International Research Network (SIRN) defines a shrinking city as a densely populated urban area with population losses for more than two years. Since hitting its peak in the 1950s, St. Louis has had a steady population decline.
How Do Vacant Properties Impact St. Louis Neighborhoods?
Vacant properties pose a threat to neighborhood stability and public services. The most obvious victims of vacant properties are neighboring owners. Suffering from deferred maintenance, these properties bring down surrounding property values. Maintaining vacant property is costly to an already unstable city tax base – placing a financial burden on all taxpayers. Vacant lots and buildings must be maintained to correct issues posing a threat – all at a substantial public cost.
Unless St. Louis can do something to change the current population trend, vacant properties will continue to be a problem that continues to grow.
Public Policy and Legal Systems
Properly addressing the scale of vacant properties in St. Louis requires a closer look at governing and legal systems as well as knowing how to maneuver through the process. The city of St. Louis controls about 11,000 vacant properties; The Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) receives title to all tax-delinquent properties not sold at the Sheriff’s sale. It also receives title to properties through donations. The real estate department maintains, markets, and sells these properties and performs land assemblage for future development.
What is SLACO Doing?
The SLACO Vacancy Committee is convening a diverse group of stakeholders and playing a strategic and intentional role in reshaping methods for dealing with vacant properties in residential neighborhoods in a holistic way.
Want to bring your skills and voice to the Vacancy Committee? Contact SLACO at 314-361-9406 or email SLACO Vacancy Committee Chair Stacy Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Vacancy is like our local version of climate change. Some people don't think it's a problem or think the solution is too hard or too expensive. If they do see the challenge, they're at a loss as to how to deal with it."
Stacy Ross, SLACO Vacancy Committee Chair
St. Louis Association of Community Organizations