There are approximately 96,000 residential tax parcels in the City of St. Louis . Most of them are owned by people who live in them and work to maintain them. Many of the buildings on these parcels are parts of tightly knit, well-maintained and historic neighborhoods that have inspired a steady growth in the City's population since 2001.
However, the historic abandonment of the City between 1950 and 2000 left behind many, many empty buildings and vacant lots.
The numbers are massive. There are 4,000 privately owned empty buildings in the City, and many more privately owned vacant lots. Other abandoned properties, approximately 9,000 of them, are held by a City agency, the Land Reutilization Authority. Eight thousand of these publicly owned properties came to the LRA by default, because the private owners did not pay their taxes, tax liens were foreclosed upon, and no one bid on the properties at the foreclosure sale. The remaining 1,000 or so properties were "donated'? to LRA when the previous owners no longer wanted them. LRA accepts these donations so that the properties are available for future development and do not fall into the hands of "speculators'? who get control of the property and then sit on it'if someone wants to develop it, these speculators will not let it go without payment of an exorbitant amount.
On all of the LRA properties and on too many of the privately owned properties, the City is forced to provide maintenance because their owners abandoned them. In all, the City spends millions of dollars a year doing basic maintenance, weed cutting, boarding up on both the private and LRA properties. We attempt to recoup the costs of maintaining the private properties by sending bills and filing liens, but only a small percentage of the City's costs are recovered.
There are only buildings on a relatively small percentage of LRA properties. Approximately 13 percent of the LRA-owned properties have buildings; the remaining 87 percent are vacant lots. Some were vacant lots when LRA acquired them; others became vacant lots when LRA demolished buildings that were public safety hazards due to falling bricks, missing roofs, and collapsing foundations. Some buildings have been in the LRA inventory for twenty years or more; some vacant lots have been in the LRA inventory for more nearly five decades.
Tomorrow, I want to talk about what LRA does with its properties.