City helps more than a dozen homeowners get caught up on real estate taxes, avoid Tuesday’s land tax sale

The city’s Land Tax Sale on Tuesday is the first of five to take place over the course of 2022.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 6:41 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - At least 12 homeowners will get to remain in their homes after a new program in St. Louis City helped them pay off overdue real estate taxes.

The Real Estate Tax Assistance Fund, created last fall, is designed to provide assistance to homeowners within the city who are in danger of losing their homes after more than three years of unpaid real estate taxes.

“You run into a situation where $2,000 or $1,500 can make the difference on losing your home,” Gregory F.X. Daly, Collector of Revenue for the City of St. Louis, said. “We’re going to try to eliminate that.”

Since 2019, the city estimates there has been more than $4.5 million in unpaid real estate taxes. By law, it takes three years before a home can be foreclosed on due to unpaid taxes and then sold at a land tax sale.

On Tuesday, around 150 properties are slated to be bid on at the land tax sale. After the bidder pays the back taxes on the property, it is theirs. Harold Dennis has lived in north St. Louis for more than 15 years and resides in a generational home, passed down to him by relatives. He said the COVID-19 pandemic and economy caused him to fall behind on the taxes, on top of other bills.

“We’re trying to keep the property in the family, we lose the property and things of that nature, and you know, that’s an investment that relatives have invested in years previous to me,” he said.

Dennis said he received several notices in the mail warning him the home could be sold.

“It’s something you worry about and just want to say, ‘hold on a second!’ he said.

The city helped Dennis pay off his unpaid taxes, allowing him to get caught up on other bills and priorities, he said.

“People don’t choose to be in this position, these things happen,” he said. “With the economy, people are trying to make ends meet and then you’re hit with this tax situation, it’s difficult, especially when you don’t owe that much.”

As of Monday afternoon, the city said it helped 12 homeowners avoid the land tax sale. Combined, the homeowners owed around $34,000 in unpaid taxes.

“It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what happens when a property becomes vacant,” Daly said. “It really does prevent individuals from coming in and just buying the property and sitting on it.”

In March, Mayor Tishaura Jones announced $500,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding would go toward the Real Estate Tax Assistance Fund. The public-private partnership is also in the process of fundraising, to allow the program to continue into the future.