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St. Louis alderman calls US Census report on housing vacancy in College Hill neighborhood 'skewed'

"I have torn down more than 300 vacant houses in the last four years and we are still tearing them down. I disagree with the Census report," said Brandon Bosley

ST. LOUIS — For the last four years, St. Louis Alderman Brandon Bosley said he's been on a community crusade: to tear down vacant houses in his third ward.

"The whole block. Whatever it is that for sure that needs to go, is getting out of here," said Alderman Bosley.

Bosley said so far he and his team have demolished about 350 dilapidated structures in the north side area, more than 80 in the College Hill neighborhood alone.

"Many of these houses have been here since the 1800's. If it's something that we can save, I'm doing the best that I can to save the architecture," said the alderman.

He knows the work isn't easy.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, the highest vacancy rate in St. Louis is in Alderman Bosley's College Hill neighborhood.

Researchers say while there are more than 1,100 housing units in the area, only 58% are occupied.

Alderman Bosley thinks the census numbers are skewed.

"I absolutely disagree with what they're saying. I know what we are seeing and know for certain does not match their numbers. They're going off pre-existing structures," said Alderman Bosley.

"It's horrible. Having grown up here and knowing what it was like years ago when I had neighbors and saw kids going to school," said Shelia Pargo, who lives in the O'Fallon Park area just down the street from College Hill.

Nine years ago, Pargo left St. Louis County and moved back into her childhood home in the O'Fallon Park area. It's an area the census also says has a high number of vacant properties.

5 On Your Side counted nearly a dozen on Pargo's block alone.

Pargo and her neighbors just want to see more of the vacant houses either demolished or remodeled if possible, to help improve the image of their neighborhoods as well as the city.

"I will tell the city leaders to bring some large stores here. Bring an ice cream place here. Things people go out of the community for, we would like to see them here," said Pargo.

Alderman Bosley said he's listening to citizens, not focusing not on the census.

"I'm going to keep doing tearing them down as long as it takes," added Bosley.

To see the housing data, click here and click on the "housing" tab.