With the April 19, 2022, real estate tax due date looming, the city of St. Louis will move $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the St. Louis Real Estate Tax Assistance Fund (RETAF) to help some delinquent taxpayers.
“Preventing foreclosures benefits our entire city, and with the American Rescue Plan Act, we’re trying new ways to get St. Louisans the support they need,” Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said during a Wednesday news conference.
“I’m excited to work together with Collector of Revenue Gregory F.X. Daly and fellow members of the RETAF coalition to keep families in their homes. I encourage donors to consider this important fund moving forward to keep support running past 2026.”
Jones and Daly were joined by representatives from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Park Central, Prosperity Connection, and St. Louis Community Credit Union.
Over the last three years, almost $4.5 million in real estate taxes have gone unpaid in the city, according to the revenue office.
In response, the RETAF, a public-private partnership, was launched in 2021 to raise funds to assist owner-occupant homeowners in paying off delinquent taxes on homes scheduled for tax sale.
The $500,000 infusion “shatters the group’s initial fundraising goal of $300,000, helping get relief to families in the short-term while providing a strong foundation for further private donations down the road,” according to the mayor.
“A region is really only as strong as its urban core. The great people of this city expect their government leaders to work together with public and private groups to solve the most pressing problems we face,” said Daly.
“Good work happens when leaders put community first and join to make things happen for the good of our neighbors. That’s exactly what we are doing today. We are so pleased that Mayor Jones has joined the RETAF effort.
In St. Louis, the Collector of Revenue normally obtains a money judgment against a parcel when its real estate taxes remain delinquent for more than three years. After the judgment and before the tax sale, a homeowner can redeem the property by paying the required balance due before the sale date.
RETAF can remit up to $3,500 of the judgment amount directly to the Collector of Revenue on behalf of the homeowner in need.
Park Central Development, which manages the fund, evaluates applications to determine eligibility, the amount of financial assistance needed, and the need for additional wraparound supportive services.
“Committing to equitable development in our city means ensuring that residents who want to stay in their neighborhoods can stay,” said Park Central Executive Director Abdul-Kaba Abdullah.
“The mayor’s commitment of $500,000 in ARPA funds, along with the Collector of Revenue’s support from day one, will help our neighbors stay housed and keep communities together.”
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri’s Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative offers legal aid free of charge to qualifying homeowners whose properties have title issues.
“Tax foreclosures have a long-term destabilizing effect on neighborhoods and contribute to vacancy and displacement in vulnerable communities,” explained Peter Hoffman, Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative managing attorney.
“With the support of the City’s ARPA commitment and the philanthropic community, the Real Estate Tax Assistance Fund will fill a critical gap in support for both homeowners and neighborhoods.”
The RETAF Coalition collaborates with Daly’s office to identify vulnerable households at imminent risk of tax sale, and contact owners to offer assistance.
An applicant must be a St. Louis homeowner whose home is listed for tax sale this year. The home receiving funds must be the applicant’s primary residence and there cannot be an outstanding mortgage debt on the property. The applicant’s household income must not exceed 100% of Area Median Income (AMI) for St. Louis.
“The loss of a home due to foreclosure or tax sale is traumatic to the people and neighborhoods that are impacted,” said Paul Woodruff, St. Louis Community Credit Union vice president of Community Development.
“We support the efforts of the RETAF Coalition because it is a clear-cut way to keep low-income families from being displaced, as well as to preserve the generational wealth that exists within their homes.”