Like many Midwestern legacy cities, St. Louis has experienced a sharp decline in population since the mid 20th century. A declining population, coupled with systemic poverty, has resulted in vacant and abandoned properties across the city.
According to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s “A Plan to Reduce Vacant Lots and Buildings” report, of the 129,000 total properties in St. Louis, about 25,000 are considered vacant and abandoned.
These vacant properties blight neighborhoods, decrease the values of nearby occupied properties, and pose serious health and public safety risks. Vacant and abandoned properties also strain City resources.
Maintenance and upkeep has cost the St. Louis taxpayer more than $17 million in just the last five years.
“It costs us all in ways that means we don’t have resources going for other purposes: schools, police, parks, and all kinds of things,” said Bob Lewis, Co-Chair of the Vacancy Advisory Committee.
The St. Louis Vacancy Collaborative, a working coalition of St. Louis residents, civic leaders, non-profits, and business leaders, launched in 2018 in order to address this chronic vacancy issue.
“I can just imagine what younger people who live in it feel when they have to go out in it everyday and walk to school and walk past the broken glass, the trash, the filthy lots, dilapidated homes, and you just feel like you are not valued, you don’t have worth,” said Sundy Whiteside, Co-Chair of the Vacancy Advisory Committee.
According to the St. Louis Vacancy Collaborative website, the number of vacant parcels has decreased by nearly 20 percent due to publicly funded demolitions since the launch of the collaborative.
In order to prevent vacancy, it is important to understand the cause of it in the first place.
“Many of the problems that contribute to vacancy exist here. Some of those are systemic poverty issues. Some of those are issues related to white flight, segregationist racist practices, by private owners and government policy going back decades,” said Peter Hoffman, Staff Attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.
“If you look at historic maps of where these vacant properties exist, you can find some correlation there between historic access to credit, like redlining and the inability of people of color to be able to get a loan for their property, to buy property. A lot of redlining maps kind of mirror where our vacancy problems are the highest today.”
To find out how you can get involved and to track the St. Louis Vacancy Collaborative demolition progress, click here.