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Plan to eliminate vacant properties in St. Louis moves to Senate

There are nearly 25,000 vacant properties, according to data from the city.

ST. LOUIS — A new plan to help eliminate vacant properties in St. Louis got a thumbs up from the Missouri House of Representatives on Thursday.

House Bill 2218, sponsored by Rep. Michale O’Donnel passed on an 11-13 vote.

Aging eyesores can be seen in almost every part of St. Louis. There are nearly 25,000 vacant properties, according to data from the city.

The bill would change the way buildings with unpaid taxes are sold at auction, and add penalties and regulations for owners to maintain and pay delinquent taxes on vacant properties.

Antione Lawrence and Mark Butler, two lifelong friends from St. Louis, took their pasts of housing insecurity and studies in finance to real estate to change the narrative.

"I see a sense of struggle. I see a sense of lost hope," Lawrence said.

“It can be intimidating, and it can be kind of disheartening," Butler added.

The owners of Hybrid Real-Estate were supportive of the proposed legislation.

"it's going to create more opportunities for buyers who want to move into St. Louis City and it's also going to create more variants in the inventory," Butler said.

"Also, to make the transfer so more properties can be sold to people who want to improve the neighborhood, improve the buildings,” Lawrence continued.

The two realtors have been working with the Normans to sell their third home on Maple.

The couple, who are urban pioneers themselves, share that sentiment to see better on their block and in their community.

“If the lenders are willing to lend money to those who demonstrate that they can be a good steward. They can be a good steward of the money. They can reclaim some of these houses. They can do what's necessary,” said Rodney Norman, a St. Louis native and homeowner.

They contended the legislation should spark something in existing homeowners as well.

"If you have bushes keep your bushes trimmed and maybe just put a pot out. A hanging pot. Or put a pot on your porch. It really helps the curb appeal," Juanita Norman added.

The city's vacant property explorer indicated that there is more than $6.2 million in unpaid property taxes.

House Bill 2218 will now go to the state Senate.

A hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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