Lawmaker Says it’s Time for a Land Bank in St. Louis County
October 17, 2022
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
By the time a California woman claimed a stake in the vacant house on Ventura Drive, Amy Michael had already spent around $50,000 repairing the warped floors, broken windows and copper wiring destroyed by vandals and years of neglect.
Michael has worked with family and friends to repair and flip houses since about 2015. But this was the first time she had bought a fixer-upper from St. Louis County’s inventory of thousands of tax delinquent properties.
“You don’t know until you’ve already purchased it whether you’re going to have trouble or not,” Michael said.
And she doesn’t mean the trash she found buried in the backyard or the mold she discovered inside. Rather, it’s the title issues that keep banks from lending against the property and force the limited pool of gutsy investors, like Michael, to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers.
“If you don’t have a clear title, that takes away many of the benefits of owning a home,” said Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale. “Some people start work and then find out they don’t actually own the home.”
Windham hopes legislation he plans to introduce next session will help St. Louis County better absorb and repurpose a growing number of abandoned properties that are weighing down neighborhoods. His bill would allow the county to create a land bank similar to the city of St. Louis’ Land Reutilization Authority, which was authorized by state statute in 1971 to manage abandoned properties left in the wake of an exodus to the suburbs.
If Windham’s bill passes and the county approves its own land bank ordinance, thousands of abandoned properties could have a new path to clean titles and a fresh start — or at least a landlord with the task of maintaining them.
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