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St. Louis offered hundreds of homes for $1 each. It sold just 4 in 2019

The program is supposed to encourage investment in some of St. Louis' most neglected neighborhoods
Credit: Getty

ST. LOUIS — A video that previously accompanied this story showed a home that is not part of the Dollar House Program. It was identified as a Dollar house by the program’s creator, Alderman John Collins-Muhammad. 5 On Your Side apologizes to the homeowner and regrets the error. 

Buy a house for $1.

It sounds like a great deal, right?

It's supposed to encourage investment in some of St. Louis' most neglected neighborhoods.

But in the program's first year, the city sold just four houses.

"Only selling four homes means that we have failed," Alderman John Collins-Muhammad said. 

Collins-Muhammad said he spent two years working to build the Dollar House Program.

It got going in early 2019 with about 600 homes on the list.

"I've always said it's going to take a dollar and a dream because it's going to take a dream to get these homes turned around," Collins-Muhammad said. 

The program comes with a big commitment. 

People who buy the $1 houses have to stabilize them within four months, renovate them within 18 months and live in them for three years.

"I don't think the city has done a good enough job in marketing this program and promoting it to the people who need it the most," he said. 

"If there's a good thing to all of those seemingly negative stories about the dollar house, maybe people will see them and say, 'I didn't know the city had dollar house programs,'" Mayor Lyda Krewson said.   

Krewson said the program is just a small piece of the city's effort to solve the vacant housing problem. 

The city sells hundreds of other houses that are not part of the program, and overall, the city sold more homes than it took in during 2019, for the fourth consecutive year, Krewson said.

Last year, the city sold 552 properties and took in 272, she said.

"That's in the right direction," she said. 

"We just want to see communities see some kind of economic development. And the simplest form of economic development is families moving into neighborhoods," Collins-Muhammad said.

Collins-Muhammad wants to see changes to the dollar house program in 2020 -- incentives like tax subsidies and financial assistance. He's not giving up on his dream because it can be successful, he said.


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