City dedicates $500,000 in federal money to helping homeowners behind on real estate taxes

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -Homeowners behind on their real estate taxes will be saved from foreclosure under a new program unveiled by city officials.

On Wednesday, Mayor Tishaura Jones announced $500,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding will go toward the St. Louis Real Estate Tax Assistance Fund. The federal money is in addition to $50,000 privately raised. The group has an additional fundraising goal of $300,000.

“This is about more than passing out money,” Shameem Clark Hubbard, Alderwoman of the 26th Ward, said. “This is about passing out education, this is about informing and empowering people.”

The city said 50 to 75 homes are lost to foreclosure at tax sales every year. By law, it takes three years for a home to enter foreclosure. Now, the Collector of Revenue’s Office will reach out to those behind on their real estate taxes to offer up to $3,500 per family and additional financial resources to help guide people to financial stability.

“If the dollars are not there to fix the home up, I have a choice,” Abdul-Kaba Abdullah, Executive Director of Park Central Development said. “I can pay my taxes or stay in my home. “It’s about making sure people can keep that American dream and we can make our neighborhoods intact.”

To qualify, the homeowner must live in the home and the mortgage has to be paid off. The city said dangerous, vacant buildings will not qualify for the program.

According to the Collector of Revenue Office, homeowners have entered foreclosure, losing their home and equity, over as little as $300 in unpaid real estate taxes.

Shawsy Cody has lived in North City for her entire life and said she’d rather see money go toward the vacant homes in North City.

“We got more vacant and run down buildings that you have people living in North St. Louis, we need to bring those people back to the city,” Cody.

She also wants to see money allocated to programming for young people, resources for the homeless and to feel like she’s being heard.

“North City is last on the totem pole to get anything,” she said.

The $500,000 allocated to the program is part of a larger appropriation of federal ARPA money passed by the Board of Aldermen last August. Board Bill 2 allocated $130 million to various programs, but as of March, the Mayor has only spent 2 percent of the money.

Around $12 million was to be dedicated to mortgage, rental and utility assistance. The St. Louis Sheriff’s Office has performed 275 evictions in the first 60 days of 2022.

“If there are complaints it’s not being spent fast enough, those doing the most complaining know how government works,” Jones said.

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