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St. Louis’ dollar house program leads to just four sales

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The city of St. Louis has sold just four city properties under a program launched last year that allows people to buy homes for just $1.

St. Louis developed the Dollar House Pilot Program in hopes of selling tax delinquent properties that the city’s Land Reutilization Authority has received and of revitalizing struggling neighborhoods. The homes available for the program are single-family houses of less than 1,500 square feet.

Under the program, a buyer must have the financial means to renovate the property.

The requirements can be hard to meet, considering the condition of the buildings, said Otis Williams, director of the the St. Louis Development Corp., which oversees the Land Reutilization Authority.

“Citizens often get a reality check when they go see the houses in person,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They realize that this is a lot of work for this $1.”

Buyers have four months to stabilize the outside of the building according to city code, and 18 months to obtain an occupancy permit. Any work on electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems must be done by licensed service providers. The buyer must then own and occupy the home for at least three years.

The property goes back to the city if an owner doesn’t fulfill those obligations.

Williams said that in the coming months, the development corporation would review the program, particularly a requirement that the houses have to have been in the Land Reutilization Authority’s inventory for at least five years.

St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, who sponsored the resolution that directed the development corporation to set up the program, said it was doing as well as could be expected.

“If we can come up with more innovative [incentives] to attract and retain developers, to renovate these homes in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, I think we can really turn around communities,” Collins-Muhammad said.

The Land Reutilization Authority has received 15 total offers under the program. Two were not approved; three applicants withdrew; and the authority canceled two offers. Two were given six-month options, and two are pending closings, according to the authority’s records.

The remaining four houses went to new owners, including Vivian Houston.

Houston, 61, said she had a heart condition and lived off of disability income. Her home is being renovated with the help of family members and contractors.

She said she had jumped at the chance to buy a fixer-upper for $1.

“I’m older, and I’m tired of moving from place to place,” she said. “And you know, shoot, I’m on a fixed income. I can’t afford to pay a regular mortgage or rent.”

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