Properties pile up at St. Louis County tax sales

The number of St. Louis County properties that failed to sell at three consecutive tax auctions has risen eight years in a row to over 1,900 properties as of late January.

Before the housing crisis, a large share of tax-delinquent properties auctioned at the county’s annual land tax sales received bids. Even in struggling communities, investors stepped up to convert cheap homes into rentals, usually bidding the first or second year properties were auctioned.

However, most of the properties held by the county trustee’s office now receive zero bids at county auctions, which has led to an oversupply of housing in the area. The county maintains and secures vacant homes, but beyond that, has few policies to address the growing number of abandoned, tax-delinquent properties that create public safety issues and depress the value of nearby homes.

The county’s most recent strategic plan, from 2013, floats the idea of creating a land bank, which would allow the county to take possession of tax-delinquent properties, clear the titles, and then try to sell them for redevelopment or reuse parcels as public spaces. Land banks have been implemented by many cities around the country, including the city of St. Louis, as a way to better manage a backlog of unwanted properties, but the county hasn’t taken any steps to form one, which would also require action from the Legislature.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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