Want a crappy home for $1? Call St. Paul's housing agency. Now.

Want a crappy home for $1? Call St. Paul's housing agency. Now.
Photo by woodleywonderwoks/Flickr

Seemed like a good idea at the time: Give neighborhood redevelopment plans a boost by putting clusters of city-owned homes on the market for scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel prices.The thinking was that targeted neighborhoods might be revitalized through homeowner sweat equity. All a buyer had to be able to prove is that they can rehab the homes to meet city rules and preservation codes. When St. Paul announced the plans -- for the the Fourth Street Preservation Project in Dayton's Bluff -- there were robust crowds during the open house showings. Some were on the market for as a little as $1.

That was in August. Since then, only three potential buyers eventually stepped forward with any interest in one of the 11 homes. Of those, one may sign a contract, the city's Department of Planning and Economic Development tells the Pioneer Press. The problem basically comes down to this: The homes need huge amounts of work, and they're being offered at a time when potential buyers have lots of choices elsewhere, unrestricted by the city's red tape.

As the number of foreclosures has skyrocketed in recent years in the Twin Cities and across the country, cities like St. Paul have taken on the role of buying houses to address a sharp increase in vacant properties. Those vacancies can contribute to a downward spiral in values for other homeowners in the neighborhood.

The result is that St. Paul now finds itself with not just the 11 homes in Dayton's Bluff, but another 59 properties spread across the city. About 30 of the homes likely will be demolished, but city officials hope to sell the others and promote neighborhood redevelopment efforts.

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