LRA buildings "for a $1"

What's happening in our built environment.
In the land of Facebook, there is a recurring theme of the big, bad LRA and how they are so hard to deal with. The mantra is that LRA should basically just give buildings away to anyone who wants them. Better that they be in private hands is the thinking.

And this view hails from the right (think Audrey Spaulding and the report she wrote for the conservative think tank "Show-Me Institute") and the left/libertarians (think bearded hipsters ready to take on LRA buildings with their bare hands).

Okay, so let's play out the scenario a bit. Some of you have experience with LRA buildings, others maybe some general construction experience, etc. Still others might think a free LRA building would be a great opportunity to get into the real estate/homeownership game.

Speaking for myself, I wouldn't want one. No thanks. Too much headache and needing way too much work. I'd much rather own a ready to live in building. On the other hand, I could see participating in some sort of community ownership effort. Where the community shared in the ownership, the maintenance, the repairs, and the eventual possible upside - however that's defined.

But for all the LRA hungry types - if indeed you're out there and not just vocal on Facebook - what would you do with one? Let's hear a basic step by step breakdown.

And when considering the idea, think about the rest of your life. Do you have a day job? A night job? Kids? Pets? Hobbies? Don't forget time devoted to those things when considering how owning an LRA building becomes part of your new routine.

Let's explore the reality - the ins and outs of taking on one of the wonderful "$1 LRA buildings". There's got to be an insider deal, some hidden angle, or a corrupt bureaucrat in this story somewhere...

Actually, I think not. It's more about a sad, run down, abandoned building that the private market let wallow to rot years ago, and now in reeeeally bad shape. But hey, it's yours for a $1!!
My only criticism of LRA is the website. It isn't user friendly.
I think the number of properties held by LRA is ridiculous, but that isn't an LRA issue.
Since the city is pretty relaxed on restrictions and enforcement of property upkeep, I think the LRA is a necessary boundary to protect properties from further damage.
My only criticism of LRA is the website. It isn't user friendly.


<depress snark key> Too bad there's not a way for a website to rehab a building. <end snark key>

I think the number of properties held by LRA is ridiculous, but that isn't an LRA issue.


I'm confused by this comment. If the number of properties held by LRA is ridiculous, how is that not an LRA issue?

Since the city is pretty relaxed on restrictions and enforcement of property upkeep, I think the LRA is a necessary boundary to protect properties from further damage.


If only this were true. LRA doesn't really have any money to maintain buildings, so they don't do much of anything to protect them from further damage**. How can they? They have a tiny budget, a small staff, and an inventory of almost 11,000 properties. So about the best they can do is try to keep them boarded, but even that is an endless battle.

Wherever the impression comes from that LRA is some big operation, it's all myth. LRA is in a small office with a tiny staff and limited budget.

Oh, and the other thing I always try to remember to remind myself, like all government: LRA is us.

** the other strange impression that's out there is somehow LRA buildings are some sort of asset/diamond in the rough. The only part of the "diamond in the rough" part about an LRA building that's true is the "in the rough" part. These buildings are abandoned, derelict buildings needing to be completely redone. They are almost always in locations with depressed markets, so the cost of rehab exceeds the after rehab value. And that's why they sit. There's nothing mysterious about it. It's a supply and demand problem (along with a lot of other things). If it were an easy process to buy and rehab an LRA building, everyone would be doing it. But it's not. It's a lot of work, takes a lot of specialized expertise, and costs a lot of money.
No, a website can't rehabilitate a property, but it can make it easier for potential developers. The city is the salesman, a low value interaction doesn't help sell properties.

The number of destroyed and vacant properties isn't the fault of the LRA. LRA was/is the solution our leaders have taken.

Very small budget, I agree. LRA at least mows and tries to keep vacant properties managed. The LRA is the difference between properties being vacant and maintained, and vacant and abandoned.
Have I looked into purchasing a property?
Of course! I'm a naive millennial who believes I can change St. Louis.
But like you said, it doesn't take very long for someone to realize it just isn't realistic.
You're not getting a property in Shaw, you're getting a property in The Greater Ville.
For what it's worth, I agree with you.
Very small budget, I agree. LRA at least mows and tries to keep vacant properties managed. The LRA is the difference between properties being vacant and maintained, and vacant and abandoned.


I don't know what neighborhood you're in, but where I frequent, LRA properties are pretty much eyesores and why wouldn't they be? If you're lucky, they cut the grass once or twice a year, max.
Northside Neighbor wrote:
Very small budget, I agree. LRA at least mows and tries to keep vacant properties managed. The LRA is the difference between properties being vacant and maintained, and vacant and abandoned.


I don't know what neighborhood you're in, but where I frequent, LRA properties are pretty much eyesores and why wouldn't they be? If you're lucky, they cut the grass once or twice a year, max.


Once or twice a year is a lot more than never.
Not trying to argue over this.
The primary beneficiary of an easier, cheaper, "$1" sale process for vacant LRA lots would be people who live next to them. Most of those people are longtime homeowners. There is plenty of property in LRA inventory that is a huge liability and not really appropriate to just "give away" - especially the buildings, but there are plenty of vacant lots that neighbors would probably benefit from owning, and the City would benefit from giving away. Yes, people can buy them now, but making that process much easier is what people are talking about when they say LRA could do more.

Scott Ogilvie
24th Ward Alderman
i really think it can't hurt anything to sell at least some of them for $1. it might be prudent, however, to exempt the few properties that are in decent shape. otherwise we may end up with empty yards in place of structures that were more likely to be rehabbed. it also might be prudent to legislate a trial period after which the $1 price has to be renewed. that way if things go badly wrong there's an easy out (though I'm not sure how the plan could make things any worse than the current situation).
I agree 1000% with Alderman Ogilvie on the idea of selling vacant LRA lots to neighboring homeowners, and expediting the process. The one exception to that, and it just so happens to be a case in point highlighted in Audrey Spaulding's report, is when there is neighborhood opposition.

In Benton Park West, the neighborhood based organization wanted a corner LRA lot to be developed into an appropriate, hold-the-corner new building. The neighbor, on the other hand, wanted the lot for himself to expand his yard. I am fairly certain that LRA denied the sale based on neighborhood opposition. The Show Me Institute, in Spaulding's report, highlighted this case as an abuse of power by LRA and the need for LRA reform.

It's a tough call. When you have organized neighbors working for years to advance a vision for the revitalization of their community, often working in concert with LRA and city officials, then to have a private property argument steal away their vision, I tend to side with the neighborhood more than the individual. Because if not for the organized neighbors doing the heavy lifting, for years, where would our neighborhoods be?

But, back to the main point, I think more than anything, when you hear folks decrying the difficulty in acquiring LRA properties, they are talking about the buildings. And, once more, in complete agreement with Ald. Ogilvie, addressing the needs of an LRA building is a complicated undertaking, and just selling them off for a buck portends difficulties on the next-in-line owner far more challenging than they often ever imagine.
Northside Neighbor wrote:
The Show Me Institute in Spaulding's report highlighted this case as an abuse of power by LRA and the need for LRA reform.


Interesting. In any other city this would be called "planning". The point about holding certain properties for appropriate development is a good one, and i don't think it necessarily precludes selling other properties (even the majority of them) for $1.
Interesting. In any other city this would be called "planning". The point about holding certain properties for appropriate development is a good one, and i don't think it necessarily precludes selling other properties (even the majority of them) for $1.


So I'm, like, straining my ear *really* hard here, but what think I'm hearing is you giving the board and staff of LRA credit?

They could use more of that...
As I always tell people, the acquisition cost of a LRA building is the easiest part, whether it's $1 or $1-2000. It's the cheapest part of a development project. Financing the renovation, which often costs more than the value at completion, is the hard part. I know from a lot of first hand experience. Getting the building for only $1 only doesn't make it any more attractive to me. I'm living in a former LRA building that I literally completely rebuilt from the foundation up because that's what I wanted to do, not because it was cheap.

I don't get the consistent theme that's out there that LRA is so hard to buy from. The application is super simple, and they want to sell you the property. The people that get turned down are usually going in with no real plan or financing. Of course you are going to get turned down. I closed on three lots for new construction homes last month from LRA, and it was the easiest real estate transaction I have ever been involved with.
On the topic of side lots, I would be happy if LRA didn't sell another one in my neighborhood unless it is an unbuildable lot. We have lost several prime LRA lots in the last couple years to this practice. It has it's place, but it's hard to rebuild to the density needed to have a thriving neighborhood if we only have a house on every other lot. Leases are better.
Northside Neighbor wrote:
So I'm, like, straining my ear *really* hard here, but what think I'm hearing is you giving the board and staff of LRA credit?

They could use more of that...


I don't recall ever being particularly hard on the LRA. I'm sure they're doing what they can with the resources they have.
I don't recall ever being particularly hard on the LRA. I'm sure they're doing what they can with the resources they have.


Fair enough...okay, but puh-lenty others. Let's say most in the "general observation" community.
Sounds like this idea is back

Charlie Hinderliter @cmhinderliter
Alderman @JohnMuhammadJr presents Resolution 78 for $1 home purchase program for LRA properties at #STL City BOA Public Safety Committee meeting.

Public Safety Committee votes 6-0 to pass