- Many former industrial cities have resorted to selling abandoned properties to save themselves from decay.
- St. Louis is the latest city to offer a program that sells single-family homes for just $US1.
- Buyers have the option to choose from more than 500 homes, but the majority will require extensive renovations.
A dollar won’t buy a cup of coffee in most cities, but it will get you a home in St. Louis. The city recently launched a program that allows residents to purchase vacant single-family properties for a dollar, provided they have a plan to fix it up.
To apply for a home, residents must first inspect the property and outline a budget for renovations. There are also a few fees required along the way.
The application itself costs $US25, and buyers are asked to obtain a $US250 insurance policy. They will also be required to pay for a “homeowners counseling class,” which teaches them the logistics of owning a home. All told, buyers are out about $US400 before renovations have even begun.
The program is fairly standard compared with its peers in other Rust Belt cities, such as Buffalo, New York, and Gary, Indiana. Buyers must commit to occupying the home for at least three years – a policy that prevents people from flipping them right away.
But there’s one thing that makes the program stand out: Instead of selling a handful of properties, St. Louis is offering up more than 500 empty homes. In total, the city owns about 12,000 vacant properties, including lots and buildings.
Like many industrial towns, St. Louis was hit hard by the manufacturing decline and the fall of the automobile industry in the US. Though its economy seems headed for a resurgence, the city still can’t afford to demolish all of its abandoned properties, which have amassed considerably over the past few decades.
Most of the homes eligible for the Dollar House Pilot Program are in need of significant repairs, including new plumbing and electrical systems. Many have broken windows, caved-in roofs, and paint peeling off the sides.
Buyers will have 120 days to bring the exterior up to city code and 18 months to renovate the entire property. If they don’t meet these requirements, the property will fall back into the city’s hands.
There’s also a limit to the type of homes they can purchase. The city is selling only single-family homes that are less than 1,500 square feet and have sat in their inventory for more than five years.
That still leaves hundreds of options, most of which are spread across four northern neighbourhoods.
When St. Louis began selling vacant houses in the 1970s, it offered about 50 properties through a lottery system. At the time, residents were fleeing the city in droves as they chased after life in the suburbs.
Today’s problems are a bit different, but the purpose of selling cheap homes remains the same: to breathe new life into forgotten neighbourhoods.
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